Refuge | noun / ref·uge: a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble.
It is no mistake that the term refugee gets its worth from the defined term above. To have refuge is to have safety or shelter- a rescue from harm’s way. To us, this concept is a given. So why is it so hard for us to welcome these people in? Why is it so hard for us to take the lost and hurting under our wing? I can think of a few reasons.
Fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the known. Fear of history. Fear of mistakes.
Writing this out, I think its almost humorous. We, the freest country in the world, think we have the sole claim to the idea of fear… but what if we have had it all wrong? What if we stepped out of our bubble of safety and met these people- whom we are so fearful of- right where they were? What if we took the time to learn their names? What if we took the time to learn their stories? I am going to step out on a limb and assume that our fear would start to flee. When people are no longer strangers- when they are no longer aliens– our protective barriers of exclusion may start to crumble.
In a reading this week, the word refugee was defined as “people who are forced to flee their homes due to persecution, whether on an individual basis or as part of a mass exodus due to political, religious, military or other problems.” Read that again. “People who are forced to flee their homes…” Take a moment and try to erase any preconceived notions or opinions that you may have about refugees and attempt to put yourself in the shoes of that definition. Imagine being forced to flee your home. Imagine packing up your life, selecting only what you can carry, and leaving the only place you’ve ever known in search of an unfamiliar solace.
That thought begs the question: what if we’ve had it all wrong?
What if we extended a hand of mercy? By no means am I suggesting that we throw caution out the window, caution is necessary and welcome. I am simply pleading for you to sprinkle grace into your caution. What if we took the time to understand and empathize? What if we slowed down and walked at a pace of mercy? I for one, think the world would look a little different.