Refugees and the Christian Response

An Interview with Richard Stearns, President of World Vision

Editor's note: The resources included in this post (and the views therein) do not represent InterVarsity or Urbana.

For the last 4 ½ years Syria has been embroiled in a civil war, the net impact of which is that many Syrians are fleeing their homes, either to another part of Syria or to another country. This is “perhaps the greatest human suffering in our world today.”

  • What’s the scale of this crisis? Before the war, Syria’s population was about 23 million people. Almost 12 million Syrians have had to flee their homes. Only about 3% of refugees have tried to make it into Europe.

[Data visualization: This Map Shows How Large Europe’s Refugee Crisis Really Is]

  • In Jordan, A 10 year-old girl presented Richard with a letter addressed “To the people of the other world.” She wrote, “Do you not see us, the children of Syria? We’ve lost everything.”
  • Abir lives in a 10’x10’ tent in Lebanon with her 5 girls ages 2 to 12. She fled Syria about 2 years earlier after she was shot in the leg by a sniper while walking with her children in her town. Her husband stayed behind and she hasn’t heard from him in those two years.
  • Syrian refugees are “not terribly popular in Lebanon.” 1 out of every 4 people in Lebanon is a refugee, the equivalent of 75 million refugees coming to the United States over 4 ½ years.
  • “World Vision is partnering with the World Food Programme to give refugees access to a monthly allotment of food. Though, that is shrinking because the World Food Programme is running short on resources. It’s really quite a desperate situation; there’s not enough food aid available.”
  • “Water and sanitation is a huge issue…. Imagine 4 million people that need water to drink, they need toilets and sanitation facilities, they need places where they can wash and bathe. This is a huge problem on a big scale.”
  • “Sadly, children are the most vulnerable in a situation like this. Traffickers are on the prowl. Child abuse, domestic violence, these are all issues that take place when massive amounts of people are disrupted.”
  • Some of the children had been asked to draw a picture of what life was like before the war in Syria and what life was like after the war began. “On one side you saw happy families, a little girl jumping rope, gardens, and flowers. And on the other side you saw bombs falling from helicopters and airplanes. You saw men in the streets wielding guns and shooting people. You saw dead bodies bleeding in the streets. Now, seven year old children should not be drawing pictures like this. It’s through this artwork that we get to see how deep the trauma is in their hearts and what they’ve experienced.”

Some of the children had been asked to draw a picture of what life was like before the war in Syria and what life was like after the war began. “On one side you saw happy families, a little girl jumping rope, gardens, and flowers. And on the other side you saw...men in the streets wielding guns and shooting people. You saw dead bodies bleeding in the streets. Now, seven year old children should not be drawing pictures like this.”

  • “Throughout the Old Testament…God reminds the people of Israel over and over that they are to be kind to the stranger, they are to welcome the alien. In the culture four thousand years ago, this was a remarkable departure from the tribal culture of the day where you fought against people that were not like you. You fought against strangers and aliens. But God has a much higher standard.”
  • “Essentially, fragile states is a term used by some of the think tanks and UN agencies to describe the most broken countries in our world.”
  • “Today, almost 50% of the extreme poor live in about 50 fragile countries that represent only about 20% of the world’s population. But, they over-index tremendously in terms of child mortality, hunger, lack of access to clean water and education for children. And so the future of poverty is going to take us into these broken difficult contexts where, frankly, most American churches and ministries are not prepared to go because they’re so difficult.”
  • “About two-thirds of the populations of these fragile countries are non-Christian, so it’s also a place where the Great Commission (to ‘make disciples of all nations’ [Matthew 28]) calls us as churches, as ministries, as Christians to go.”
By Adam Jeske
While on the whole, things are looking better than ever, the great need that remains is more concentrated than ever in these fragile states. Progress has been made, but the progress which remains is more desperate than it has ever been. And we, the Church, must not turn a blind eye.
By Drew Smith
These past months, as I’ve lived in the story of Matthew’s Gospel, I’ve found a gospel written for a time like ours. I’ve found a manual for the disciples of Jesus living in a hurting world.

[See also Not Just Jobs, Not Just Bibles: The Future of Fighting Extreme Poverty, by Richard Stearns]

  • On Urbana and God’s call: “I always tell young people that God did not call them to be successful in a career. God called them to be his ambassadors in the world. A career is a means to an end… It’s never about success in and of itself, it’s about successfully following Christ into the world and into the world’s pain, to change the world for Christ.”

The European Refugee Crisis and Syria Explained by In a nutshell:

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