For five years now, the war in Syria has been cultivating fear and forcing people to flee in astronomical numbers. More than 250,000 Syrians have lost their lives, and 11 million others have been forced to flee because of war, violence, or persecution. In other words, people leave because they think there’s a very good chance they’ll die if they stay where they are.
For the almost 5 million Syrians who have become refugees in other countries, family members, jobs, and homes are all left behind. They know that once they leave, it isn’t likely they will ever return. And if they do, it won’t be to the place they remember. With every step forward a little bit more of their hope and dignity gets left behind.
When the only thing we know about Syrian refugees is what we hear or see through news stories, it’s easy to become numb or to think in terms of a giant group of faceless statistics. It’s easy to forget they are individuals, each with a unique story and each created in God’s image.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an author from Nigeria. A few months ago, she gave a speech at the United Nations about the refugee crisis. “Nobody is ever just a refugee. Nobody is ever just a single thing,” she reminded.
“In my language, Igbo,” she continued, “the word for ‘love’ is ‘ifunanya’ and its literal translation is, ‘to see.’ So I would like to suggest today that this is a time for a new narrative, a narrative in which we truly see those about whom we speak. … Let us tell a different story.”
Around the world, the Church is serving refugees along the journey in multiple ways. In addition to providing for needs such as food, clothing, and education, local congregations are reminding individual refugees that they are made in God’s image, that they are worthy of love. They are working to re-humanize people who feel like they’ve lost everything, and they’re working to tell a new story about the refugee crisis. Watch the video “In Their Own Words,” where a few individuals share their own stories.
To learn more about the Church of the Nazarene’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis, go to ncm.org/refugees.
Half of those living as refugees are under the age of 18. Since they’re living in flux, finding schools is extremely difficult. Sometimes even getting over a language barrier can be a hindrance. Yet education is crucial during that time. This year, the NCM Christmas Project is providing education for refugee children. To support the project or to learn more, go to ncm.org/Christmas.