“When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don’t take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am God, your God.” Lev 19:33-34 (MSG)
Today I woke up to images of the body of a three-year old boy washed upon the shores of a Turkish beach. It is haunting… And while we could talk ad nauseam about the ethics of posting such a photo on all news sites, this picture hit home to me as a father.
It has been easy for me and you to ignore the growing refugee crisis hasn’t it?
It is easy to ignore it because these news stories are the same again and again: detached, impersonal and quite frankly overwhelming similar week in and week out.
So what changed for me? I am not sure. Maybe it is because I imagined how I would feel if I was looking at a picture of my daughter on that beach. Maybe it is because that three-year-old looks for all intents and purposes to be sleeping, ready to get up and walk. I think however, that most definitely it is because I am scared of thinking about what I would feel if I was the father that had just lost his kids and wife as he is trying to flee from the terror at home.
And my first reaction is to blame government.
My first reaction is to blame the Turkish government (how awful is it that in the same picture you see another man who, by all appearances, is from the Turkish police observing the body as if it was just another peace of washed up debris instead of a person.) that is refusing to provide exit visas for Syrian Kurds. I blame the UN who has so far refused to designate Kurds from Syria as refugees. I blame my own government to. Not just one party, but the whole lot. Because you and I know that if everyone stopped for a moment to try to sell themselves and instead work wholeheartedly on creating a better Canada and a better world amazing things would happen. And deep down I already mourn for the way this story is just going to become a pawn in this never-ending power struggle that we call an election campaign.
But it is easy to hide behind that blame is it not? It is so easy for us Christians to want the government to accomplish great things.
What I have noticed is that when I blame others, when I hid behind the inaction of others I only mask my own inaction.
Jesus has called me. Jesus has called us. And that calling is not to a life full of platitudes, nor a life that is content to place the blame on others, but instead to a life full of compassion, of love, of mercy and of peace. As I write this the words of the song we often sing on Sunday’s is on my lips: “I want to be your hands and feet, I want to be your voice every time I speak.” And yet I feel the conviction of not having done so. I realize that it is easy to react to a picture. It is easy to react to the story of a family who wanted to move to Canada, whose file passed through the hands of both MP’s and Cabinet Ministers and whose pictures ended up plastered in all corners of the world for the most horrible of reasons.
But I also realize that I have spent the last six months ignoring this very topic. I chose not click to on these stories, I chose not listen to them when others spoke of them. I chose not to react and to engage!
So what can I do? And what should I do?
I have resolved to start praying. And while this might look like another form of inaction to some, I know it is not. I choose to actively engage in the way that I know I can, which is to let my Lord know how much I care by asking him to show me how to proceed and by letting God be sovereign over my feelings, my anger and my hope.
I have also resolved to start talking more about how our churches can help in this situation. I am convinced that the Church is called to have a voice in this story. And while I don’t know what this voice is, it is our time to step up. It is once again up to the Church to stop hiding behind the inactivity of others and to step up: to pray, to help, to sponsor, to welcome and to step up in new ways.
You may now tell me that I’m still not clear. That I sill haven’t formulated a plan, an outline, a way of dealing with this situation. And you are right: I have not!
And I am okay with it. I am not sure how to respond!
But what I do know is that I serve a God who cares deeply about those who suffer, who cared deeply about that three-year-old and who cares deeply for the sole surviving member of that family.
And I know that it is time for me and for you to be part of this conversation. It is time for us to start talking, listening and caring. It is time for us to realize that there is more to this crisis than the elements of statecraft and violent deterrence. This crisis needs our voice! This crisis needs our Christian voice!
What this looks like I do not know. But I pray that God will lead me, and I pray that God will challenge me, and I pray that I will be faithful to follow when he does!