Almost 2 years ago I wrote a post about what was then called ‘The Largest Humanitarian Crisis of Our Generation‘. At the time I wasn’t sure if this title was entirely accurate, but given that it’s still going on, and has only become worse, the situation in Syria has probably lived up to this title.
Refugees have always been, and will always be a part of our broken world – millions upon of millions of people displaced from their homes in generations gone by.
This last week the Western world was shaken, and somewhat stirred into action by the shocking images of Aylan Kurdi, the 3 year old Syrian boy found washed up on the shores of Turkey after attempting to flee the crisis in Syria. This has lit up the Internet with numerous articles, blog posts and commentary on this situation (and here I go with another!).
Injustice screams the loudest when the most innocent are exploited.
It often takes this ‘loud screaming’ for us to take notice. It takes this sort of graphic imagery to open our eyes to see what these refugees are going through.
A Snapshot of the Situation
- More than 16 million people are in need of assistance inside and outside of Syria;
- More than 11 million people are displaced;
- More than 4 million people are on the official UN list of refugees from Syria;
- According to the U.N., more than half of all Syrian refugees are under the age of 18
How to Respond
The photo of 3 year old Aylan screams injustice to the world, it pulls at our heart strings and moves us to action – read some articles, give some money, pray a prayer, write a blog post. All great things to do! But then we tick the box, and move on with our relatively merry lives… All the while there are still literally millions who live out this reality of war, persecution, suffering & injustice every day with no escape, and have done so for many years.
How do we avoid just ticking the box and moving on? I recently heard a really simple but fantastic definition of humility –
“it’s not thinking less of yourself… But thinking of yourself less.“
A life lived in humility would be a massive step away from our self-centered lives and towards thinking more about the needs of others. Generosity flows out of humility. Sacrifice flows out of humility.
Sometimes we need to be humbled to fully grasp humility. I read a great story of a woman in Germany who responded so passionately to helping out the Syrian refugees pouring into Frankfurt train station…
Her eagerness was noted by a news reporter who quizzed her why she was acting in such a fervent manner … her passion setting her apart from the others … “Because I remember!” was her reply. “Because I remember …”
Who knows what dreadful hardships this woman remembers? What had she experienced that so scratched itself into her memory that when she bleeds, she bleeds generosity? And what would it take to bottle this open handedness?
“She bleeds generosity” – I love this.
A Different Response
Someone recently shared with me an article they read about Syria that referenced the account in the Bible about Saul. Saul was a Jewish extremist – hunting down and killing followers of Jesus. After meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus (the capital of modern day Syria), his life was completely turned around.
It’s normal and certainly important to pray for those impacted by the crisis. But the challenge for us is actually to pray for the persecutors in Syria – for the leaders and soldiers of ISIS. This gets to the real root cause of the situation. God turned around the life of Saul in Damascus centuries ago for a very specific call and purpose. But I think it reminds us of the ways in which God works – he calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute.
So my challenge in all this, and I hope yours too, is to ‘think of myself less’, learn what it means to ‘bleed generosity’, and to pray both for the refugees and for those who persecute. This I hope, will result in more lasting change in my response to such issues, and in turn a more lasting impact on those affected by injustice.