Returning Refugees

We are waiting for the executive orders now, orders that will ban refugees from entering the U.S. for a time, and will limit the number invited here over the course of a year. 

Opinions are flying on both sides of the issue - sadness that we seemingly cannot reflect the same hospitable spirit that those who are looking for our help do, even in the midst of loss and hurt and tragedy. Excitement that the newly instated president is following through on promises he made and working to serve the American people and ensure their health and prosperity. 


Wherever you stand on the issue, I think you have reason to rally around the cry that the issue is not where to resettle the refugees, the inherent issue is why are there so many refugees, and how can we stem the tide? 

We can in anger accuse American or European governments for their poor reception and treatment of refugees, but where is the outcry against the governments and terrorist groups who are driving people out of their homeland at an alarming rate? 

And have you personally sat and thought of what it means to be a refugee? Have you thought of what it would mean for your family to lose everything, save for months to be able to afford a guide in a boat or a crowded, stuffy bus across the border, never knowing the whole time if you'd ever make it - whether death or border patrol would cut off your efforts? 

If you make it, and settle into a semi-livable space, next comes managing a country and customs you do not know in a language you cannot understand. No familiar sights or faces. No food that tastes like home, no smells that remind you of where you left. No rhyme or reason to the way people interact and the expectations they hold you to. 

Refugee status is not a ticket to paradise, it is at best a haven, a safe place, a place you can mostly count on being warm and not hunted down. 

But it is not home. 

More than argue about open or closed borders, let's find ways to pursue peace and build better, safer homes for potential refugees where they are. Let's begin the hard work of open dialogue, of learning to disagree, learning to defend your perspective with honor. Let's teach respect and expect it in return. 

Let's build a generation of educated, literate youth who know how to be open-minded and strong in their convictions, who are willing to enter hard conversations for a better future. 

Let's give families a reason to stay, a conduit for dreaming dreams and seeing those become a reality. Let's remind them that this country they love is home, and theirs for the making. Let's encourage them to build the country they want to live in. 

This is the work we are engaged in in Northern Iraq, with hundreds of kids who have been forced from home by terrorists militias. Gratefully, now, many of them are still in a place where they can legally find work, their neighbors speak the same language and celebrate the same holidays, and a visit to their former home is only a few hours drive. Once they leave the country, however, the chances of returning become so much smaller.  

The refugee crisis is real, and it needs answers, but one of the answers so often overlooked is the need to make their homes safe again, to give them dreams and purpose again, and to elevate the conversation, educate oppressed people so they can join the table, and start the work of building peace in hard places. 

When you look at the news and are discouraged by the crisis, remember this, you can be a part of the end of the refugee crisis when you support work on the ground, providing a speck of hope that maybe life can go on in their home country, maybe there is a way out of the darkness. 

As Malala, a refugee herself said, "To be torn from the country you love is not something to wish on anyone." 

Help us wish for them to stay, help us make it possible.