I had the incredible privilege last week to attend an event (The Bridge conference put on by International Christian Concern) focused on the persecuted church in the Middle East specifically. I also was able to attend a separate discussion regarding the refugee crisis and how Christians should think about it and how to help them.
I don’t even know where to begin because my head and heart are still swimming from the amazing personal testimonies, the harsh reality of suffering and oppression around the world, and so many thoughts about what can be done.
As I am able to gather my thoughts I will probably share more, but for now I just want to address a couple of basics on the matter.
Why should you (as a Christian) care about the persecuted church and/or refugees?
I realize these are not identical issues. But I would say that in both cases, the reason is the same: our faith demands it.
Matthew 25:31-40 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'”
1 John 3:16-18 “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
Col. 3:12-14 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
And there are so many more. God’s word tells us to love our neighbors, and then broadly defines who that is. It exhorts us to remember and care for the poor, for widows and orphans and the vulnerable. It says to show hospitality, even to strangers. So love, compassion and action to help people being persecuted for Jesus Christ, as well as to refugees (of any religion or ethnicity) is absolutely consist with how the Bible teaches us to live as Christians.
The problem seems so overwhelming, what can I really do?
It’s true, that the problem of lack of religious freedom, religious oppression and Islamic terrorism are huge problems. It is easy to feel powerless. But we should never forget that we serve a sovereign God, who hears our prayers and knows our burdens!
That is why the first thing we can and should always remember to do is pray. Be as aware as you can of what is happening, whether it is in Egypt, Syria, Russia or China. Wherever. And then take that to God in prayer.
When it comes to refugees in particular, I have heard that something they want more than any material thing (even though many are living with next to nothing) is to know that people remember what they are going through. That people haven’t forgotten their plight. That we’re still talking about them.
I will not tell you how or where to give. I won’t even say you need to, since I realize not everyone’s financial circumstances allow for that. But if God breaks your heart for people on this issue and you want to give, there are plenty of organizations that work with persecuted Christians around the world, and others helping refugees and IDPs (internally displaced persons) in other countries and even some that even help resettle refugees here in the U.S. Google them or email me and I can tell you the names of some groups I know about.
When it comes to refugee resettlement in the United States, there are ways to give financially and also (perhaps more important) many non-material opportunities to assist refugees who may be facing extreme culture shock. They need friendship and assistance such helping them learn how to do many of things we all do without thinking (grocery shop, use public transit, apply for jobs or driver’s licenses, etc).
Advocacy and activism.
Many of those same organizations helping refugees and helping minister to persecuted Christians around the world, also do advocacy work or activism on these issues.