Watching the news, it’s not hard to guess why so many *refugees are fleeing the Middle East. The refugee crisis is being called the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II.
Yet, when refugees flee to foreign countries, filled with a language and culture not their own, more and more refugees are getting the cold shoulder.
Europe’s relations with the Muslim minority has become worse over the last year with the increased traffic of both refugees and terror attacks. Why? Because the same horrors and terror refugees are fleeing is terrifying not just them, but the people they’re fleeing towards.
One Former Refugee’s Story
However, Muhammad, a former refugee who fled Iraq in 2012, works with Bethany Christian Services as a caseworker. He helps resettle refugees in Pennsylvania. Bethany, a global nonprofit organization, works to bring and keep families together and currently has refugee resettlement programs in both Pennsylvania and Michigan.
As someone who’s been in a refugee’s shoes, Muhammad explains, “For the people that don’t understand the refugee situation, most of the people [are] concerned about the single people who arrive to the United States. And my question is, even if they are single, they went through a long process of security check[s] [and] health screening check[s]. It takes some time, three to four years, to complete this process, before they can enter into the United States.”
It took 6 years for Muhammad to reach the United States. Furthermore, he spent the entire time away from his family, trying setting up a new home before they followed. Muhammad says the average waiting period for refugees, from the time they leave their home country to the time they’re resettled, is about 3-6 years.
When Muhammad fled his home 10 years ago, he left and never looked back. He says Iraq wasn’t safe. After the war, there were bombings, kidnappings, and killings. Absolutely no chance for a future. This was before ISIS made its presence known.
Refugees’ Current Situation
The horrors refugees are fleeing now are worse than what Muhammad knew. But a major difference between current refugees’ flights and Muhammad’s flight is how he was greeted. Many times today, refugees aren’t greeted with a helping hand, but an angry face.
Bethany is trying to change this. Through the resettlement program, Bethany helps refugees by setting up apartments and picking them up from airports. Bethany also helps with transportation and figuring out paperwork. Bethany workers and volunteers teach refugees about safety concerns, like calling 9-1-1 in an emergency.
Basically, refugees are given a helping hand and shown how to get around in their new homes — how to do daily life in a foreign world. For Muhammad, this help was huge when him and his family finally came together in the US. But also, so were the friendly faces greeting them.
“When I’m facing somebody, smiling or saying hi to me, it will break that fear of ‘am I accepted in this community or not,’” Muhammad says. “Actually, the first time after my wife joined me in the United States, we went walking to the park. The people in the park [said hi], and that made my wife feel very comfortable. So friendly faces make a difference.”
Because Muhammad knows what a helpful hand means to a refugee, when he greets refugees in the airport he welcomes them in their own language, Arabic. It opens the door for these refugees to feel welcomed and free to ask Muhammad questions. But it’s also nice to have even just a little familiarity in their lives.
Showing Christ’s Love By Acting
Still, there’s another layer in welcoming refugees fleeing the violence of their homelands. It’s called the Gospel.
Site Director-Refugee Resettlement in Allentown, Marla Sell says, “Underlying the whole organization is that we show Christ’s love through everything we do…It reminds me of the story of the good Samaritan. Somebody is laying on the side of the road. We don’t want to be the ones to walk past. We want to be the ones to stop and help.”
Sometimes, especially with people who’ve experienced abuse, all that can be done is to act like Christ. By showing His love, actions can speaker louder than words.
And as of July 1, 2016 through 2017, Bethany will help resettle and serve over 650 refugees in Pennsylvania. These refugees are individuals who are unable to return to their home countries for fear of persecution based on ethnicity, religion, nationality, race, political viewpoints, or social group memberships.
So if you would, pray for all the refugees fleeing their homelands. Pray for the less than one-half-percent who will be resettled in the United States. Pray for their safety, peace, and for the conflicts forcing them out to end. But also, pray for them to encounter the Gospel and to have their hearts changed for Jesus.
Also, consider joining Bethany in helping refugees make a new home here in the US. You can help by either volunteering to help a refugee, a family, or by donating to the organization.
To volunteer with Bethany or to give, click here!
*According to Bethany, 43 million people have been forcibly displaced worldwide. Forty-one percent of these people are children.