Jesus Is A Refugee (poem) reposted

See the  mother on the journey, tiny baby in her arms,
Running from the soldiers who’ve come to rape and kill
She’s tired from the running, desperate, hungry, full of fear—
How can she know God loves her, and that He walks beside her there?

He is there beside her in the dark and in the cold.
He knows what she is feeling, in the Bible it is told
That He was once a refugee. His parents ran to save His life
From the soldiers sent to kill him in Herod’s infanticide.

The way that God has chosen to loose the bands of wickedness
To give bread to the hungry and to help free the oppressed
Calls us to walk beside her in our prayers and in our hearts:
As the body of Christ, the servant king, it makes her burden ours.

But words and prayers are not enough, no matter how well spoken
God’s love requires our presence so He can walk beside His children.
Even though we’re broken, we are His feet and hands.
We stand in need of grace to obey His commands.

Though she sits in darkness, He came to be the light.
Though she now is hungry, He is the bread of life.
Though we turn aside sometimes or don’t know what to do,
We are all called in some way to help her make it through.

He chose to entrust us with His reputation
And to make us His body throughout every nation
As a king become baby, He risked everything
Calling us to embody the love that He brings….

I was hungry and you gave me bread
Thirsty and you gave me drink
A stranger and you took me in
In prison and you came to me….”
Lord, when did this happen?
His answer is quite clear
“When you did it for the least of these
It was for me, for I am there….

Teresa Norman March 2001

 

The View from the Front

This article yesterday in the Seattle times tells about the struggle refugees are having making ends meet in the recession economy and how the budget cuts are impacting them here in Washington State.  I took some time to read the comments that followed the article, and was made aware of how great some of the hostility is that people hold towards not just illegal immigrants, but also towards those our government has invited to be here.  While I understand their financial frustration, and fear that their piece of an ever-shrinking pie will somehow disappear, I am also aware that my friends who are refugees have faced things beyond my comprehension.  The link here is to an article from the Bangkok Post, written by a friend of a friend, highlighting the situation these folks needed a refuge from.

Good Life in the Midst of Bad Circumstances

At first glance it might seem a little incongruous to have a “Good Life Club” in the middle of a war zone, but the name comes from John 10:10 where Jesus promises abundant life. This project, started by our friend, Karen, gives those of us living in safety and prosperity something practical we can do to contribute to the lives of internally displaced mothers and children on the run from the Burma Army. For details of how you can help, click here

For more pictures of the Good Life Club in action….click here.  (This is  a project of Partners Relief & Development and their friends at Free Burma Rangers).  The Good Life Club packs are carried in by the relief teams going into Burma and delivered to the moms and kids who need them.

Worst Places to Be A Refugee

The following article by Katie Mattern,  published on IPS, states that “Gaza, South Africa and Thailand are among the world’s worst places to be a refugee according to the latest annual World Refugee Survey released here Wednesday by the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI).” (click IPS link above for rest of article).  It goes on to say “15.2 million people qualified as refugees during 2008 – down from 16 million one year ago – and that more than 800,000 were currently seeking asylum in foreign countries.”  Some 26 million more people were internally displaced (IDPs- those who fled their homes but had not crossed an international border).  

The article continues to point out that “Thailand was cited as a poor performer as a result of its treatment of Rohingya refugees – in one case the Thai Navy towed un-seaworthy boats with nearly 1000 Rohingyas and scant food and water aboard into the open sea to prevent them coming from ashore – and its plans to forcibly repatriate Hmong refugees to Laos.

This month in Thailand, refugees from fighting in Burma faced threats of being pushed back across the border.  The article here  explains the threat. According to friends in the area, trucks carrying aid were being turned away by authorities and not allowed into the area. Fortunately, Thai authorities responded graciously, reassigning those responsible, (link here) and the situation for the newly arrived is improving-the threat of repatriation is diminished for now.  

Thailand and the UNHCR have faced many years of dealing with the challenge of refugees from multiple countries.  Many people have found shelter there which has saved their lives, and helped them and their families to move to a life of freedom (not without difficulties!) through resettlement in other countries.  This article from the Irawaddy highlights some of the challenges to the whole system, which views refugees as a burden to the state they end up in, best solved by sending them home.  

Some of the world’s poorest countries are also home to large populations of refugees. Chad, a constant on the U.N.’s list of least developed countries, has a refugee population of 268,000 while Sudan hosts 175,800 refugees from Eritrea and Ethiopia.” (IPS link above)

The report gave Europe a grade of D and the U.S. a grade of F for refoulement or returning refugees to places where their lives or freedoms could be threatened. It also gave Europe and the U.S. grades of D for detention/access to courts.” (IPS link above).

 

 

Still need: soap, toothbrushes, clothes….

The Irrawaddy today states: “If the fighting continues, at least 8,000 more villagers will have to escape across the border,” said Zipporah Sein, the general secretary of the Karen National Union (KNU).

The key thing now is to provide them with more adequate shelter,” said Sally Thompson, the deputy head of the Thai Burma Border Consortium (TBBC). “They have food and medical attention, but the flimsy, makeshift homes they are now in provide inadequate protection from the weather.”

Local Thai authorities are drawing up an Action Plan, which would then be discussed with the international aid agencies and local NGOs before implementation.

Many recent refugees are crowded into the grounds of a Thai temple, a couple of kilometers inside the Thai border, where they lack access to basic necessities, aid workers said.

“They are in relatively good condition,” said Kitty McKinsey, the regional spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Mae Sot.

“They are not emaciated, though many have walked for more than seven days to escape from the Myanmar [Burma] army,” she told The Irrawaddy. “They hurriedly left with nothing but the clothes on their back.”

Ma Theingyi, 33, the mother of five children, said: “We desperately need soap, toothbrushes and cooking utensils. More than anything though, we need clothes for our children.”

Zipporah Sein  , (see link for full statement) requests the world community to continue providing humanitarian assistance to the recently displaced and support for the many Karen CBOs working to provide both emergency needs and further community development for those displaced in Karen State.

As the Mom in the article says, they still need soap, toothbrushes, clothes for their kids, and cooking utensils.  Another source in the area asked for hammocks so they are out of the mud to sleep.  Partners Relief & Development, and Free Burma Rangers/World Aid, Inc., are a couple of the organizations contributing to that effort.

A Man Named Rainbow Tells Their Story

News of the families and communities being driven from their homes continues to come from the border, both through conventional news sources, and those working there.  In the first link below, a man named Rainbow tells some of his community’s story.  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8095137.stm

QGPT 06 our camera 166

One of many kids in Ler Per Hur

(We met Rainbow briefly several years ago, when, after we delivered rice donated from folks here in Seattle. We accidentally disrupted his class-our friend Noah (at about 6′ 2″+) stood out in the crowd.  The kids were  fascinated with this friendly big guy in the bright yellow shirt (and distracted from their  lessons), so Rainbow told Noah to come teach them something).  

A rainbow, in the Bible, was a sign God would not forget His promises, (and that the rain had stopped). Here, according to friends yesterday, they hope it keeps raining–the shelling stops when it rains…..

God, please remember Rainbow, and all the others under attack at the moment.  They are not a news story-they are real people having families, having schools, doing life in a real hard place.   

Some of the news links from this week:

http://www.irrawaddymedia.com/highlight.php?art_id=15891

http://www.burmacampaign.org.uk/index.php/burma/news/mortar-bombs-hit-ler-per-her-idp-camp-up-to-200-used-as-slave-labour