International (MNN) — If all you knew about recent discussions of immigration and refugee resettlement came off your social media feed, you’d be under the impression that there was a lot of hysterical rhetoric going on.
Some people are merely reacting to headlines, while others are looking for credible sources of information and trying to fact check. What doesn’t seem to be happening is much listening. From an educator’s perspective, Tent Schools International’s Dale Dieleman asked this question: “How can we help communities and individuals look over the issues, and also come to some conclusions on their own, without necessarily being influenced by political parties, friends, family or whatever, but looking at it logically from an educational perspective?”
Education, he says, is really about the examination of the facts. Study the facts from a variety of sources, he suggests. Compare notes. Read articles from opposing points of view. Check the historical facts. Find people off which to bounce ideas. Analyze.
“Begin to enter into some healthy dialogue. Be actively listening — in other words, feed back to them, ‘I hear you saying this, is this what you really mean? Could you please explain this further to me?’, rather than these short ‘sound bite’ kinds of things that we hear and we repeat, and repeat, and repeat.” This communication model looks a lot like the Imago dialogue 101 used for conflict resolution between married couples.
Conflict often arises from underlying emotional discontentment felt. It is expressed through criticism, anger, and dissatisfaction. By listening carefully to an opposing viewpoint and asking questions, says Dieleman, “We can learn about each others’ points of view; we have an opportunity to voice our views on this subject.” Essentially, after forming a hypothesis and doing research, “…test your views and your conclusions, because a lot of information changes…and then finally, keep a critical ear open for what might challenge your current views.”
Why this particular discussion from Tent Schools? Displaced people groups exist on every continent around the globe, and half of displaced people are children. Tent Schools International comes alongside Christian leaders in refugee camps and other transitional areas to establish effective schools for displaced children.
As such, they’ve been following the decisions of the Trump Administration and the explosion of reaction closely. It’s an understatement to say the issues of refugee resettlement and immigration are hot button topics on which everyone seems to have an opinion.
“There are marches in the street about it. There are communications coming from the White House about it, all over the capitals of various countries that are hosting or sending refugees — and the people caught in the middle are the refugees,” he says.
Somewhere along the way, in the bitterness of exchanges, the Body of Christ seems to have lost track of the goal. “We really need to keep our focus on that through the eyes of Jesus.”
Dieleman recognizes the dilemma of those who are torn between the issues of national security, terrorism, and the plight of the displaced. “We have empathy for that. We’re human beings. As Christians, we also look through the eyes of Jesus and have compassion. It’s understandable that our blood pressure goes up real fast when we hear opposing views. But we have to step back and look at how then are we going to proceed in a compassionate way?”
He suggests one way to do that is to be grounded in the truth in Scripture, and ask, “What would God have us to do?” Citing Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Noting that humility is not one of the more common elements of this issue, Dieleman offers a concluding thought: “This is my interpretation of this, my understanding, as we look at immigration and refugee issues: the Christian Church needs to stand up and be a beacon of hope, a light unto the world, in terms of how to treat people. How would God want us to treat people?”