World Refugee Day 2017
In the 60 seconds or so that it took me to grab a mug from the cupboard, pour in a little cream, fill the mug with coffee, and then sit down with my computer in my lap, another 20 people somewhere in the world were forced to flee their homes, to escape war, terror, or persecution. This statistic, which comes from the UNHCR (the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN refugee agency), is staggering--to frame it in another way, every day more than 28,000 human beings are forced to leave everything behind and flee for their lives though no fault of their own. According to a recent report, there are over 65 million forcibly-displaced persons in the world today.
Can you imagine being forced to leave your home in order to escape persecution, war or acts of terrorism? I can't. (And what's worse is that about half of those refugees are children.)
Tomorrow, June 20, 2017, is World Refugee Day, and all over the world there will be special events, concerts, marches and gatherings of all kinds to benefit refugees world-wide. You might have to go to some effort to see any of this reported in the U.S. news, but I hope you will do that. Here's a live blog of the various activities--it's a good place to start. But for those of us who follow Jesus, tomorrow could be a day of prayer for refugees all over the world--those who are displaced within their own countries, those who have been displaced to neighboring countries, and even those who have fled to the U.S. The refugee life is anything but easy--displacement camps are often crowded, austere places, where food and water can be scarce, housing options are severely limited, and in many cases, people are essentially locked up in large, fenced camps with nothing to do but wait, hope that a door will open for them somewhere in the world, and try to survive.
This crisis is of great importance to those who follow Jesus, because while the meaning of some passages of Scripture can be elusive, there are many passages that have to do with God's concern for the poor, the outcase, the marginalized person, the widow, the alien and stranger among us, the sojourner--the refugee. (If you wonder if this is true, you can take a look at Leviticus, chapters 9 and 19 for starters. Read through several of the prophets and you'll find that on some occasions God's judgment against his people was triggered by their failure to obey God's directives concerning the poor and the aliens in the land.
But enough of that--I already preached a sermon on that topic--my aim today is to encourage you to use the occasion of World Refugee Day to pray for refugees, to take some time to take in the scope of the crisis, and to ponder what a Christ-follower might be able to do to help.
For more information about World Refugee Day, see this article on the UNHCR Web site. If you want to do more than just pray, here's a good organization to know about: World Relief. And you might want to watch this.