USA (MNN) — World Refugee Day is June 20th, and for Gary Edmonds and the team at Food for the Hungry, the day is a somber reminder of the unprecedented humanitarian crisis facing countries around the globe.
“It’s a sad time in history when it’s recognized that there are currently more than 60 million refugees,” says Edmonds.
While news feeds are filled with stories of those fleeing to seek sanctuary in other countries, refugees are not simply people who crossed a boundary, fled to a different nation, or entered a new culture.
Edmonds shares, “There are tribal groups and ethnic groups who are exiles in their own countries. Many are internally displaced due to conflict or crisis. People find themselves displaced, find themselves moving into a place where they don’t have stability.”
Food for the Hungry has been involved in providing Christ-centered care for Syrian refugees for five years. In addition, they work with South Sudanese refugees who are displaced in their own country as well as Uganda and Kenya, and with Burundi refugees who have fled to Rwanda, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“When working with a displaced people population, we know stability is a primary issue, so providing food security is one of the first things that is done,” says Edmonds.
“But another issue that is often overlooked or neglected is the reality that the children of these families are in a state of crisis. We’ll help set up schools in the context of a refugee population. If the children don’t have food security, if they don’t have an education, that becomes actually a breeding ground for the radicalization of children.”
For most, living as a refugee is not a short-term issue, so Food for the Hungry provides much of the same training it does to developing communities in third-world countries.
“We literally are helping to train people on livelihoods; how to provide for themselves where they create their own kind of village and village economy.”
One thing that’s decidedly different between refugee communities and those living in areas of extreme poverty is the desires of the people themselves.
“Every time I’m with refugees, the overwhelming wish is, ‘I want to return home. I want to go home.’ We want them to have the skills and abilities to actually go back to where they had come from.”
When that return happens is an unknown for most living in a refugee context.
Edmonds reflects, “When I think about things from a Biblical context, the nation of Israel was in exile for 70 years. But then the doors were opened for restoration. Because of that, I know it’s possible, and I know it happens. And until it does, our responsibility is to partner with local organizations and ministries to continue to provide care for those currently in exile.”
This World Refugee Day, get involved in praying for and tangibly supporting refugees in crisis around the globe. Edmonds says one of the most powerful ways individuals can get involved is by donating to Food for the Hungry’s crisis relief efforts.
“And I encourage people to get involved in their own communities. You have refugees, you have displaced people. Get involved in caring for them – get your church involved. Help refugees, strengthen them.”
Edmonds pauses, and then continues. “I say this carefully but with all sincerity – please pray. God tells us to care for the aliens, and the aliens are refugees, displaced people. Let’s not become hardened to these people, let’s learn to reach out and love and care for them as I believe God would want us to do.”