Today I am reminded that I am a person, just one of God’s creations and there is nothing overly important about me or my story because we each have our own, and it is because of this humanity that we are all equals.
This thought came to mind this evening after taking time to sit in a speaking engagement with one of my sociology classes, where we listened to refugees from the community share about their experiences in Canada. During this talk, we were also immensely blessed to hear from a woman named Tima Kurdi. She is the aunt to the little Syrian boy who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea, and was photographed lying dead on a Turkish Beach.
While listening to her speak about her experience as a foreign immigrant many years ago, to her more recent tragedy of mourning the loss of her sister and two nephews, I was touched. I was moved in my spirit when she spoke, not only because she shared so vulnerably, but because she said three things that struck me. First, she talked about the day she found out that her sister and nephews had drowned and then viewed pictures of her sweet little nephew lying dead on the shores of the sea. She described to the audience how that felt, recounting how she screamed loudly and fell to the floor in grief. Second, she mentioned that she was from Damascus, born and raised. Finally, she spoke to us about her visit to Syrian Refugee camps in Turkey and how she had gone to visit her family members, describing the horrors of the reality of the situation from her perspective. She stated that she came home changed, that she could never return to her life as she knew it because she had seen too much, and heard too many stories, that there was no way for her to ever return to Canada as the same person.
It was in her story that I am reminded that I am here for a purpose. I did not move to BC for leisure, or to be pulled in by the welcoming culture of the Bible Belt. I am renewed in spirit as I recall all the times where the Lord was my strength, and my shield. He helped me so many times and continues to walk beside me even now. As Tima spoke about the shock and devastation she felt upon finding out her family had drowned, I am reminded of my own grief. It wasn’t so long ago that I too felt that surge of adrenaline, the sensation of my blood pooling in my lower body. The mournful wail that escaped my own throat after hearing the news of my brother’s death haunts me to this day. A woman whom I did not know six hours ago, has reminded me through the motions of grief that I am human too. Even though we share different beliefs, she being from a Muslim nation and an immigrant Canadian, we share a sisterhood in the human experience.
When she mentioned that she was from Damascus, this very thought popped into my head:
“3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
Saul was on the road to Damascus when the Lord saved him. PAUL the Apostle. Damascus. Our Holy Bible came from the Middle East. In fact, Tima and her kin, are more closely descended from the loins of Abraham than I ever will be! And yet, my fellow countrymen (not all of course, but there are some of you!) who shut her out. Who reject her because she is from “that” part of the world. Who are of the opinion that she and her people are not deserving of the Gospel, and North America better blow out the candle in the window and hide behind the couch so it looks like nobody is home because we don’t want to be “terrorized”. Shame on us. Look at who we have become. I’ve never been more disgusted when I consider how many people turn their backs on their immigrant/refugee brother and sisters. “They’re draining our system”, “They don’t learn our language!”, “They don’t respect our culture!” and so the list goes on.
If you are a Christian, and you are reading this, I fully expect you to NOT be one of those people. Why? Because Paul was on the road to Damascus (Yes, that’s in the Middle East!) when He was converted, because both Christians and Muslims alike have Abraham in common, and more importantly, unless you have some Jewish heritage in your line, then WE are the Gentiles, and Jesus came for all of us. So, it is time for us to remember our humanity, to remember that we have all shared in that experience no matter what part of the world we come from and that we are all deserving of God’s love and if we deny others, that which we have taken for ourselves, then we are hypocrites and the Holy Spirit is not in us.
Do we not realize that we live in a land of milk and honey? That we have toilets, and elevators and school! That we have freedom and grocery stores and clean water that pour out of weird little tubes called “taps”? That we have peace. I’ve never seen another country that wasn’t like my country. I’ve always known the comforts of a car, of a fridge to hold my food, of a warm house, nice clothes and options as far as the eye can see. I’ve hardly seen the world and this makes me horribly ignorant to the reality of what many other people experience daily. We’ve got the best of the best, so where does this greediness and selfishness come from? Where does this unfriendliness and shunning attitude coming from? From the enemy, that’s where. He doesn’t need to do much work when we’re so distracted with our own lives and indulgences that we’ve forgotten the world. That makes us a prime candidate to be the sucker who takes the bait, ignoring the Great Commission.
So, what next? If you agree and this is merely a confirmation of your feelings on the matter then read on, or perhaps you are challenged by the stance that I have taken, therefore I encourage you to open your Bible. In it, you will NOT find anything that upholds the view that you should shun the non-believing neighbour. In it, you will find instead a love letter of hope, grace and forgiveness, and you can expect of course to be commanded “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation”, especially to our newcomers to North America. This requires sitting with the least of these, even if it makes us uncomfortable, thankfully the Gospel is not about us and all about He who made us.
I was blessed tonight and I am reminded, like Tima, that I can never be the same person ever again. I’ve seen too much, I’ve heard too many stories and my life is forever altered. The moment that the Holy Spirit entered my life and into my heart I was changed and I can not look back and be who I was before. This is what I must remember as I step out my door every morning, this is what I must adorn as I engage with my refugee/immigrant neighbours and countrymen, and I encourage you to do the same.
What can you do for your refugee/immigrant neighbour?
1. Love them
2. Be their friend and seek them out
3. Help them with English (so important)
4. Be normal and remember….They’re human too!