The global refugee crisis has gained increased attention since the early 2010s and continues to mobilize pastors, congregations, and prayer warriors around the world to petition our Lord for His divine assistance towards our hurting world. This year, World Refugee Day is on June 20th and we are invited to consider our persecuted neighbors, and brothers and sisters in Christ. We pray for our hearts to be tuned to His on this matter. ♡
The Syrian civil war, the collapse of the Afghan government, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the prolonged civil war in Sudan, and the relentless persecution of the Rohingya peoples, are a few of the recent conflicts that have produced immense human suffering in the form of violence, persecution, and ‘stateless people’, or refugees. A refugee is defined as an individual outside their home country, and owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, and is unable to return to their home country.[i] According to the United Nations High Commissoner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are approximately 82 million individuals who have been forcibly displaced from their homes.[ii] This is an astounding figure (more than twice the population of Canada) and each ‘number’ represents a man, woman, or child made, in love, in the image of our Creator. As the world is increasingly becoming more volatile, especially to those of faith, we can anticipate a rising number of global refugees.
The decision to leave, we can imagine, is never one taken lightly. In Warsan Shire’s powerful poem, Home, she writes: “you have to understand that no one puts their children in a boat, unless the water is safer than the land”.[iv] It is worthwhile to attempt to put ourselves in a fleeing family’s shoes for a moment, to consider the trials they have endured in order to obtain safety. After an often dangerous journey out of their home country, trials may persist in a refugee camp. As the Lord is sovereignly working through global and local institutions to provide for the needy, the kingdom of darkness is also in operation. There are ongoing reports of criminal networks abducting or deceitfully luring people, including children, into human trafficking schemes inside refugee camps (a representation of one of the most deplorable schemes of the enemy). The sexual abuse of women and children is also cited as a concern in many camps. Inside the refugee camp, or once resettled in a third state, refugees may be faced with racism, discrimination, harassment and/or targeted attacks based on particular identity markers – we need to actively and lovingly engage with this when we see it in Canada. There are approximately 30,000 refugees resettled in Canada each year and our national church is a major sponsor of refugees through the private sponsorship system! We praise the Lord for His work in our Canadian church family!
The persecution of Christians has also been steadily increasing. In the last year, Open Doors reported 360 million Christians living in areas that experience high levels of discrimination, approximately 6,000 Christians killed for their faith, and approximately 4,700 arrested, sentenced, imprisoned or detained without trial.[v] In Afghanistan, North Korea, and Somalia, the government routinely targets, tortures, and kills individuals and entire families based on their Christian faith. Dozens of Christians have been beheaded in Egypt[vi], Libya[vii], and Nigeria[viii] in recent years; this extreme form of violence seems to be increasing. Jesus’ church is increasingly being persecuted around the world, through local authorities threatening church leaders, targeted gang violence, or intimidation. At Westside, we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ, in part, through Global Prayer Team.
There are several ways to engage with this issue, both locally and globally. One can volunteer with local non-governmental organizations, donate to certified local and/or international agencies, join a prayer team, consider doing missionary work in this area, and/or become educated on the realities of the refugee crisis. As we engage, we need to be careful to avoid placing a label of ‘victim’ on a group of people that has tremendous strength and resilience in overcoming struggles (and may not want to be defined that way), or defining their experiences based on the media we engage with. We pray, Lord, for opportunities to walk alongside, listen, lend a hand, and demonstrate Your love to landed refugees in this city.
We serve a triune God, that in His deep and profound love for us, sent His Son to die for us to be reconciled to Eternal Grace, Love and Justice. As we are now His vessels, we have a tremendous opportunity to shine His light in these increasingly dark times – perhaps the Spirit is calling you to serve with the sojourner, the fatherless, the widow, or the persecuted. We are blessed that the King we seek to emanate cares about this issue and calls us to love others as ourselves (Romans 13:8-10), be a voice for the voiceless (Proverbs 31:8-9), care for the abused (Luke 10:29-37), and shine His light (Matthew 5:15). Jesus Christ is the Light of the World, the only Light that can truly overcome darkness – we must solely rely on Him and as we abide in Him, we have the profound privilege of illuminating His Kingdom, as His hands and feet.