First off, thanks for clicking on this article, it means you care or the provocative title brought you here. Regardless, thanks for stopping by, if you haven’t yet please catch up by reading Part I. It barely scratches the surface of how bad the current situation is in Syria and my desire is not to practice virtue signaling but with a hope to awaken what’s happening in Syria that will help Christ-followers in the U.S. more effectively pray and act. Let’s dive into how we can act for refugees and return to more effectively praying later.
This starts with being informed and compelled by scripture when it comes to how we respond to minister to refugees and immigrants but must go beyond that. The sad reality is because of the deep polarization over the last 4+ years in our country speaking for immigrants and refugees has become an unpopular topic often in conservative evangelical circles and at times sadly a taboo one. Being Biblically informed and compelled must move us beyond that to act with courage and conviction.
Be educated with an understanding that the Gospel is radically pro-life from the womb to the tomb
The Bible calls us to see these millions being forcibly displaced, slaughtered, and freezing to death as people created in God’s image(Genesis 1:26-31). While nearly 1,000,000 are trapped in northwest Syria with nowhere to go, dozens freeze to death every month of winter, and hundreds of others need medical attention where virtually every hospital has been bombed in the region; we must understand they aren’t just numbers but individuals like 3-year-old Sarah that are created in God’s image. A deep commitment to human dignity and a love for our neighbor should lead us to be broken over Sarah’s story, and act on behalf of refugees and the displaced.
Sarah suffers from frostbite while fleeing with 5 members of her family who all died. as they were crossing into Lebanon. (photo credit CNN)
Sarah suffered from extreme frostbite after her mother Manal, her five-year-old sister Hiba, her grandmother, her aunt, and two cousins died on the mountain freezing to death while fleeing (only her father survives). Scripture begins shortly after creation with the fall of man being framed with a context of death(Gen. 2:17; 3:19) and horrific tragedies like this refugee crisis have been a part of the brokenness of human-kind throughout history since then. But Jesus came into the world that those who believe in him may have eternal life(John 10:28) and he came not just preaching salvation but showing acts of compassion toward physical needs. Our motivation to speak for and serve refugees is the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ. That we long for them to hear the Good News of the Gospel that will save them spiritually should also drive us to love for our neighbor and seek to help them on the broken Jericho road(Luke 10:25-37). Refugees need to be rescued with the life-saving hope of the Gospel and the help we can give them as Christ has sent us in this dark and needy world.
Have A consistent discipline to look for news about it
As believers, we are called to “understand the times” (like the men of Issachar in 1 Chronicles 12:32 ) and to pray to be “alert” (Colossians 4:2) that requires a lot of work in our day. Here is the reality, ALL news outlets have a bias and agenda, especially immigration and refugee issues (I know this isn’t earth-shaking for most of us). Using this media bias chart will help us filter through the bias at times. But the other reality is in the US there is very little coverage at all on Syria regardless of the bias.
Take for example an advanced search I did on Syria with the big 3 news outlets such as Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC while composing this article. Not one of them had any updated info and the most news I found on any one of the three was just three items over the last two months. As a matter of fact, it’s extremely difficult to navigate their search tools to find relevant info. It’s more evidence that the US has turned away and from a news outlet perspective, we know that scenes of the horrific tragedies in Syria do not sell to advertisers well in the U.S.
Further, the AP and Reuters can be good sources, but I personally lean to international outlets primarily, it takes some strategic googling if you will. Also, I use the Free Burma Rangers field situation reports as they are coming from the field as they serve there and I trust them.
Advocacy is being a voice with or for the voiceless, standing in the gap to present the realities of injustice (particularly for the vulnerable) locally and around the world to those in positions of influence to change the situation and we see believers biblically instructed to do just that: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”- Proverbs 31:8-9
The need to speak up and advocate for refugees and policy to affect what is happening in Syria is vital. Begin by advocating in your church and community. This will often require us to be engaged in political processes that many Christians often find uncomfortable. If that is the case then please heed my friend Dan Darling’s advice here.
When refugees become a political target or government processes begin to impede churches’ missional roles to serve them it is imperative that we speak up. Our voice can and will make a difference! Often helping with grass-roots efforts may include advocating with elected public officials to help legislative impact, create opportunities to advocate for refugees and the global crises through local public outreach, helping refugees tell their stories, and assisting with advocacy efforts through various networks and local media outlets. We certainly don’t want to be just armchair advocates but we definitely don’t wanna do less than that.
Understand when it comes to policy issues both in Syria and refugee resettlement there are decades of problems with blame to be cast on both sides of the political aisle. You do not have to be a Middle East expert to realize policy failures going back at least three presidents has impacted what is currently happening.
It’s going to take courage and conviction from legislators for policy change to happen, this has clearly been lacking on this issue(and other immigration issues) in recent years. While I was very encouraged of the recent news that GOP Congressman Ralph Abraham visited Syria; what followed then was the news he would not seek reelection. We’ve seen a trend in conservative legislators speaking boldly on immigration/refugee issues only once there is nothing politically at stake for them. We need to understand that our legislators and President Trump could certainly make a difference now with what his happening in Syria.
Understanding and engaging in advocacy for refugee resettlement is an important need now
Is refugee resettlement the solution to what is happening in Syria? No. Is it a small help and a lifesaver for many? Yes. (Just ask some 3.5 million refugees that have resettled in the US since 1980).
Advocating to welcome and resettle more refugees(specifically Syrians) should be something most Americans could agree on; but sadly because of misunderstandings, misinformation, and political polarization, it is not. When it comes to Syrians specifically being resettled neither political party or the past two presidents would seem friendly toward the idea if it was not of some political advantage. Before the image of the dead body washed ashore of the Syrian toddler, Alan, went viral late in the summer of 2015; the US had only welcomed and resettled 1854 Syrian refugees over the course of the 4+ years that the civil war had taken place. After that and up until President Trump’s initial refugee ban took effect on January 27, 2017, the U.S. welcomed and resettled just under 17,500 Syrian refugees. Since then the US has only resettled 2,432 Syrians over the last 3 years. While these numbers should sadden us (*note the overall reduction of refugee resettlement below)we need to understand that historically refugee resettlement was not a politically divisive issue but was an issue that brought both sides of the political aisle together. Now it is just more evidence that Bible-believing evangelicals that stand for a robust pro-life ethic are politically homeless.
So let us take a few minutes and contact our legislators by email, phone, or even fax letting them know you want the US to help do more for Syrians currently trapped and facing death and begin to welcome and resettle larger numbers of Syrians again. If you do not know you US Congressmen you can put in your zip code to get that info and contact your legislators here. Take a minute to program the Congressional switchboard and the President’s number in your phone. Anytime you hear a story or see a social media post on refugees take a quick minute to call, it does make a difference.
President Donald J. Trump Phone:(202) 456-1111. For the U.S. Congress switchboard: (202)-224-3121.
There are no easy answers to Syria, but please take the time to pray and act now.
By Jason Lee
Jason Lee is the Director of the Acts 17 Initiative, which exists to partner with churches to educate, equip, and engage with the Gospel to the Nations in the U.S.