Refugees: The Nowhere People.

Refugees, the nowhere people: Robyn, my niece, is 33 years old and a fashion designer, married to a Brit, and living in London. She has a sense of compassion for the suffering, and she speaks up when she has a concern. Robyn shared on Facebook a video about refugees in Syria, and this got me thinking. Based on her info, I wrote the blog and invited her personal comments…..they can be found at the end.

Robyn Hood -- a deep-thinking compassionate woman.

Robyn Hood — a deep-thinking compassionate woman. (Click to enlarge then back-arrow to return to blog).

I was already aware of the terrible situation in Syria, but found myself wondering how relevant it is to Americans. After almost three years of civil war in that country (where part of the population is Christian), here is the situation:
• Total population of Syria is about 20 million.
• 12 million are refugees (meaning displaced from their homes).

• 4 million have left Syria and many of these are living, or really just existing, in refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon, or Jordan. They are not allowed to request asylum in these countries.

• The European Union have received ¼ million refugees, who are allowed to apply for asylum here, but only if they can get to and enter a European country. It’s a voyage threatened with great risk and danger. But this ¼ million is only 6% of the 4 million refugees who have left Syria……a drop in the bucket.
• The USA have taken in less than 1,000 refugees from Syria.

Mohammad and Linda Jomaa al-Halabi, along with their five daughters, are among the fewer than 1,000 Syrian refugees who have been resettled in the U.S. You can see the new hope radiating from their faces? Why can’t the USA multiply this by ten?

Mohammad and Linda Jomaa al-Halabi, along with their five daughters, are among the fewer than 1,000 Syrian refugees who have been resettled in the U.S. Can you see the new hope radiating from their faces? Why can’t the USA multiply this by ten? (Click to enlarge or to source).

I recently survived a refrigerator leak which covered three-fourths of my ground floor, for one or two weeks, with a quarter of an inch of water. The cleaners had to gut a lot of this floor by cutting out walls, pulling up floorboards, and tearing out the lower kitchen cabinets. Then installed for several days twelve massive air-blowers to dry it out.

I lived in a hotel for some nights when I couldn’t stand the smell. I washed plates and glasses in the upstairs bathroom. Also, I carried my clothes for washing to a friend’s home on several grateful occasions. It was three months before my home was fixed.

I live alone, and the accident took its toll emotionally. I was shocked for one week, depressed for two weeks, and anxious for two months trying to find and arrange and monitor contractors to fix the house. After three months, all repairs were complete, and I could walk through my refurbished home and sink joyfully into a sofa to gaze at paintings hanging again from replaced and repainted walls.

Now multiply this by ten or perhaps a hundred, and I can start to imagine what it’s like being a refugee who has left or lost their home due to war or dire economic conditions. My conscience prickled. Do I have any concern over Syrian refugees? Should I have concern as a Christian? If I am concerned, what can I do?

But it’s even worse than the numbers above. 220,000 Syrians have been killed in this conflict.

All this barely creates a ripple of concern in the USA. Our large and prosperous country could take a substantial number of the Syrian refugees. We could share some of our wealth. So could Canada and Australia. The need is great, but actions by western countries seem to be slow and feeble.

I felt shocked and depressed and lost for a couple months without the use of my downstairs, including no running water. Now this seems like nothing when I compare with losses suffered by the Syrian refugees.

If it’s too hard for us to influence a rich western country to help more, can we still help on an individual basis? Absolutely! Organizations like World Vision, Doctors without Borders, Samaritan’s Purse, and Life Outreach International are some of the NGO’s who are getting into countries and helping devastated people to hope.

By feeding the starving, saving children who are dying, drilling water wells, and moving sex-slaves to orphanages, a few dollars a month from us goes a long way in these countries. Note: if you click on any of these links, you will then have to close the link to return to this blog.

One of the drifting refugee boats, abandoned by the smugglers. (Click to enlarge or to source).

One of the drifting refugee boats, abandoned by the smugglers. Can you see the hopelessness on their faces? (Click to enlarge or to source).

There are also millions of refugees in south-east Asia. In particular, the Rohingya people of Burma and the utterly poor from Bangladesh (one of the poorest countries in the world) are in desperate plights. Many try to escape by boats to countries where they can be safe and can get jobs. Often the boat smugglers rip off the refugees, and sometimes even hold them in pitiful camps until they get more ransom.

In one story that made the news, the boat smugglers bailed out, and left a few hundred refugees to fend for themselves. With no way to drive the boat they ran out of food and water. No countries helped. Finally a group of fisherman from Aceh, an Indonesia province in Sumatra, paddled out, brought them ashore, and looked after them.

Medical staff tried to revive the sick, including toddlers with swollen bellies from malnutrition. The irony of this rescue is that Aceh was in the center of the tsunami that struck South-east Asia in 2004 and killed 230,000 people by waves up to 100 ft high. The only folks who were willing to help the boat refugees were those that had lived through their own disaster many years previously.

If the victims of a dreadful tsunami could reach out and help, surely the long arm of our Jesus heritage can reach out to refugees from Syria and South-east Asia, by supporting the NGO’s who are going in, rolling up their sleeves, and working in these and other areas. Remember the story about the Good Samaritan…….

Robyn’s comments:
As affluent countries we have a responsibility to those less fortunate.

I have a great quote about Banda Aceh fisherman saving the Rohingya refugees:
“Back when the tsunami hit Aceh, people from all over the world came here to help us, regardless of race, ethnicity and religion,” activist Muhammad Hamza told the rally. “Now it is time we show humanity by helping the Rohingya.”

What a truly honorable attitude from poor Indonesian people. Very strong ties with the Good Samaritan parable (my favorite parable).

I like how you related loss and pain to your personal experience, since it is hard to imagine how horrifying it would be to take your family from everything you know into not knowing where you will sleep or what you will eat or even if you will live out the day.

I also love that you bring light to issues that some people would not know about.

The Gray Nomad
Probing the practice of Christian believers……

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
(Book of Matthew, chapter 25).

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8 years ago

Ian my friend, the Syrian refugee problem was triggered to a great extent by our (USA) desire to destabilize Assad by supporting the “pro-democracy rebels” (e.g. Senator McCain photos with rebels including Al Bagdati (?) who became later the leader of ISIS). These rebels evolved in the most barbaric version of any religion. Now we have the Syrian refugees in Turkey, and the slave-movers (with tolerance by the Turkish government) transport the refugees (for high fees) and dump them on the Aegean Greek islands by the thousands (in the last 3-4 days more than 3000 refugees landed). The EU is trying to take some relief measures that are far from being implemented. The refugees from the islands are transported by regular ferries to Athens (but the Greek government does not have the resources to help them). The best way to help is for us (the USA) not to mess with foreign governments we do not like (as we did in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, …) so we do not create such crises “in the name of democracy”. Greetings from Athens.

8 years ago
Reply to  ZAM

Thanks Zissis for your insightful remarks from Greece. The Greek Islands is where I’d like to be right now……it was 105F in Albuquerque today. Kidding aside, your arguments do seem to make some sense. While I’ve always felt that democracy exerts a strong pull (nice homes, fashionable clothes, cars, TVs, iPhones, restaurants, freedom to speak up, and education for girls), we seriously underestimated the desires of in-country leaders to oppose such things.

Karen Larre
Karen Larre
8 years ago

This kind of story runs deep and stirs my soul. As someone who is working hard to climb out of my own financial crisis (stimulated by last year’s serious health crisis), I cannot help financially at this time. I can however pray for God’s will in the situation and focus on gratitude for having my home and health back myself. Thank you, Ian, for bringing this to our attention.

8 years ago
Reply to  Karen Larre

My hope in writing a blog is to touch a heart here and there, and I thank you Karen for affirming this. It means a lot to me. Thanks also for being so honest about your own situation. I feel that God will honor this.

Cindi Graeber
Cindi Graeber
8 years ago

How many immigrants enter the United States as refugees, and where are they from? In 2013, 69,909 refugees were admitted to the United States, a roughly 20 percent increase from 2012 (58,179). Iraq, Burma, and Bhutan were the primary countries of nationality for refugees admitted since 2010. The nationals of these three countries made up 64 percent (44,920) of all refugees admitted in 2013. The next seven countries of origin for refugee resettlements in 2013 were Somalia, Cuba, Iran, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. Altogether, nationals of these ten countries totaled 95 percent (66,624) of all refugee arrivals in 2013. Each year, the president and Congress set the annual refugee admissions ceiling and regional allocations. For fiscal year 2015 the ceiling was set at 70,000, same as 2014 (down from 80,000 between 2008 and 2011). The Near East/South Asia regions received 47 percent (33,000) of the total regional allocations in response to refugee crises in Iraq and Burma. The above information was taken from the following:

8 years ago
Reply to  Cindi Graeber

Thanks Cindi for telling us about these numbers. Two things seem clear: (1) total refugees accepted by US are 70-80,000 in recent years. (2) Iraq and Burma are the dominant countries sending refugees. Iraq makes sense since the US went in to depose Saddam Hussein the dictator. Burma makes sense also given the current mistreatment (and worse) of the Rohynga peoples described in the blog above. It still seems to me a pity that the US isn’t willing to find a way to bring in more Syrian refugees. At the same time, I don’t understand why Turkey and Lebanon and Jordan don’t allow the refugees already in their countries to apply for asylum status. Maybe they figure when the civil war ends the refugees will just return to Syria (i.e. its easier to wait it out and meanwhile ignore the jobless hurting people).

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