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.

The Fear of the “Other”

Thosepeople are different than us….”, my usually reasonable co-worker said this morning.  She was trying to explain to me why immigration and immigrants and all those “other” people make her mad coming into “our” country.  (Not sure which country her ancestors immigrated from-mine were German, Norwegian and Swedish).  It was hard not to get mad.  But we were at work, so there wasn’t enough time for a full-blown rebuttal of “why so many of my friends and the people I respect are refugees or immigrants” and why I believe our country is enriched by what they bring or that those of us who are not Native American need to walk a bit softly and with humility on this one.  She knows how much we love our “adopted” Burmese granddaughters so, she just wanted to tell me that the Somali refugees next to her house were blocking the driveway with their car and she thought they should be deported. Oh, and, that we let too many of those “other” people into this country!

I’m sorry her neighbors had bad manners, or maybe didn’t have her understanding of property rights.  But stereotyping everyone from every region (except of course, white North Americans who forgot that they too immigrated) is a really bad idea!

Refugees go through a stringent screening process to get here.  Article 1 of the Geneva Convention as amended by the 1967 Protocol provides the definition of a refugee:

“A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it..”[3]

Taking a deep breath, saying a pray for those, like my friend, who do not understand the value of diversity, the necessity of compassion, or the richness and beauty to be gained by learning from what each person created in the image of God has to offer.

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).

 

 

Roll Call of Angels

I love angels….not the cute little cherub type  guys with white wings or harps, but the real life practical kind who do all kinds of creative things to help refugees get resettled in our lovely metropolitan area:

Minhee: the “taking dinner to a refugee who’s not feeling well” angel

Kate:  the “tutoring girls, bringing friends, mentoring and networking like crazy, be back in June, helping a single dad, going to Goodwill to help organize a household for the newly arrived” angel

Mona & Rosie: the “cell phone translation, we speak your language (literally) and can help you communicate with others what’s going on in this new world called America and bring groceries and teach you where to shop and check on other issues, mentoring a family” angels

Jenny: the “set up getting girls in school, interact with and arrange ESL classes, take father to emergency medical appointments, get furniture that fits a really small apartment (loft beds are great!), check in with the family regularly” angel

Steve: the “translation by cell phone covering three different languages” angel

Dale: the “arranging tutoring schedule for all three family members” angel

Chad & Melinda: the “let me give you some books of bus passes” angels

My husband: the “you are welcome  in my heart and my home, I will include you in my life,  help connect you to a community of people, and take you on some adventures whenever I get a chance” angel

Eunice: the “doing creative expression projects with the girls and giving Dad a break” angel

Ginny: the “welcome to my house, let’s play soccer, balloon volleyball in the living room, treat you like a little sister, above and beyond expectations” angel

Janelle: the “take you to the aquarium with some friends to hold starfish and see Seattle” angel

Tina & Linda: the “Sunday School in your language, translation by cell-phone, welcome to America, we were new once too” angels

This list is not finished…will work on it some more later, but just some examples of creative ways normal average people can help welcome strangers, pick up where the job of resettlement agencies end, and sometimes entertain angels unaware….

Where do refugees come from?

Refugees come to the US from many countries.  The US Department of Health & Human Services has a table on their web site that gives statistics of where in the country refugees have been resettled and where they have come from.  According to their web site, they came from 63 countries.  During the 2007 fiscal year the top 12 countries they fled from were:

  1. Burma                                        9776
  2. Burundi                                     4525
  3. Iraq                                             5474
  4. Thailand                                    4059
  5. USSR                                           4583
  6. Ivory Coast                                1605
  7. Cuba                                            2923
  8. Eritrea                                        1043
  9. Afghanistan                              418
  10. DR Congo                                   841
  11. Liberia                                        1576
  12. Vietnam                                      1550

From Burma during the 2008 calendar year, statistics provided by TBBC show that 17,172 were resettled to third countries during 2008 from the camps on the Thai Burma Border.  These refugees, who fled rape, forced labor, an illegal government who burns their village and takes their land, and other multiple human rights abuses were resettled in 10 different countries as follows:

  1. USA                             14,280
  2. Australia                       1562
  3. Canada                            637
  4. Finland                           283
  5. Netherlands                   144
  6. Sweden                            134
  7. Norway                             77 
  8. United Kingdom             29
  9. New Zealand                    24
  10. Denmark                             1

Global Day of Prayer for Burma

Sunday, March 8th is the Global Day of Prayer for Burma.  

Pray:

  • For political prisoners.
  • For a political solution to the armed conflict.
  • For the pastors, who are often singled out and attacked by Burma army soldiers when they first enter a village.
  • For strength, wisdom, and hope among people of all faiths who live under direct control of the military dictatorship in Burma.  Pray that they will be unified and encouraged by their efforts to serve one another through love and perseverance.
  • For all of the parents who have lost their children due to the Burma army attacks.
  • For the children who suffer the most in the conflict.
  • For a change in the hearts of the Burma army soldiers and leaders.
  • For a political solution to the armed conflict.
  • For those in the areas still devastated by Cyclone Nargis.

Some of our friends from the Karen choir at the Karen church in Kent will be participating in the service at Quest on Sunday.  Below is a translation of the song they will be singing.  Please join them, and us, in praying for Burma.

My prayer

 Alone, I cannot walk the path without you Lord.

All is barren without your presence.

All life comes from you.

Strength comes from you.

Rest my heart

May I rest in you.

Let me know just one thing.

For all in heaven and earth

And my heart is yours.

Let me believe in just one thing

That you will never leave me

And where ever you place me, there you be.