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Words Matter

Do you know the difference between a migrant and an asylum-seeker? And how is a refugee different from either of those groups? 

Words (and their definitions) matter, especially if you are looking to understand the complex conversations around forced displacement. We recently updated a few of the resources in our toolbox, including one that clarifies the meaning behind commonly used terms. We hope this brief Terminology of Forced Displacement document can help you sort through some of the confusion in public conversations. 

 

 

Never Alone

When I look at the bustling and complex backdrop of the European cities where I encounter people on a refugee journey, I am amazed that any of these people have had the resilience and strength required to make it this far. Having fled persecution and violence by crossing deserts, seas, and endless miles of terrain – a dangerous journey that often covers a period of years -- these forcibly displaced people finally arrive in a safe country only to face a whole new set of challenges. They are strangers in a foreign land, weary but often hopeful that they will be permitted to stay and begin the daunting journey toward a new beginning.

Last week I was once again privileged to sit in a room full of such courageous people. One young man entered the room for the first time wide-eyed, his face betraying the weight of his travels. He had only arrived in the country two days before, and he was just trying to figure out how to navigate this new place and language and where to look for help.

One volunteer asked this newcomer about his journey and heard about the many challenges he had faced. At some point someone commented on how difficult his journey must have been and how challenging it was to make such a trek alone. But the young man quickly replied, “I am never alone because God is with me.” This intimate sense of God’s nearness and presence is not typical of the worldview of most people from this young man’s country, so his bold assertion made everyone take notice.

It turns out our new friend had learned about the God of the Bible in secret in his country, and he had believed wholeheartedly the promise of Jesus to never leave him alone. When a person knows and lives in this confidence, it changes everything. Knowing God’s presence with him changed everything for this young man on his journey to freedom, and I believe that same awareness of God’s nearness and love will sustain him in the trying days ahead.

Uprooted flowers

When a flower is pulled from a garden, its roots are torn out of the soil and are no longer able to sustain the flower. It won't survive long without being replanted in a safe place where it can again put down roots.

When people are uprooted, they are ripped out of both their place and their community - often in ways that are traumatic. Similar to an uprooted flower, forcibly displaced people need a safe place into which they can again put down roots.

This is why it matters greatly when 1 of the world's 30-some-odd countries offering resettlement to refugees decides to reduce it's quota from 110,000 people to 50,000 [see section 6.b). It means that 60,000 people who would have been given a safe place in which to rebuild their lives will now be left uprooted and vulnerable for at least another year - and quite possibly longer. Like flowers with their roots exposed, how long can we expect them to survive?

Let's speak up for those who have no voice. We all have a voice that we can use to inform and influence our friends, family and political representatives in helpful ways. Let's hold refugees in our prayers, lifing them up to Jesus - asking him to hear their cries and to lead them to a city in which they can settle. And although we might not be able to solve their need for a place they can call home, perhaps we can offer welcoming spaces and community to those who carry the story of forced displacement with them as they navigate our streets.

Please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you would like to explore ways that you and/or your church might be able to stand with refugees at this difficult time.

Click here to see a helpful and user-friendly resource designed to give us a well-informed understanding of refugee realities in the world today.

Bicycles

One of our IAFR value statements, which guide our actions, is that we collaborate with refugee churches.  We do this because we believe that refugees are not simply people in need  but are created in the image of God, with dreams, hopes, plans, and solutions for their displacement.

One of my great joys is to collaborate with the refugee pastors and churches in the Dzaleka Refugee Camp.  During my most recent visit, the pastors from one of the refugee churches took me to visit some of the 15 branches that they have started in surrounding villages near the camp.  As we talked together, one of the challenges of caring for these churches was the time and distance it takes for one of the refugee pastor/evangelist to travel (normally on foot) to these village branches.

But they proposed a solution...bicycles.  Bicycles would make it easier to access the villages and reduce the time to get there.  That was something that IAFR and the church could work on together.  Through some generous gifts from friends of IAFR, we were able to make resources available to help purchase several bicycles. 

I was thrilled to recently receive this picture of the bicycles, sent from one of the refugee pastor's mobile phone, and to see the joy of those who will use them to be carriers of Good News.  In their displacement, the refugee church remains focused on their mission.

Photo: Refugee pastors in Dzaleka refugee camp

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