What is a refugee?
According to the United Nations, “a refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence” (USA for UNHCR, 2022).
This reality starts a long process: A person or family leaves their home country, flees to a second country where they must also receive official refugee designation from the United Nations prior to being eligible to apply for resettlement in a third country. While they are waiting in that second country, they often live in refugee camps and are not eligible to work or go to the schools of that country. The screening and application process is very thorough and involves many layers of interviews, background checks, and security clearance. This process can take up to several years and refugees often do not get to choose which country they would like to be resettled nor what city. Eventually they arrive in their new country where a refugee resettlement agency has been tasked with helping them secure initial housing and basic necessities.
Thus begins their new life in a strange land.
The Scriptures show over and over that God’s heart for “foreigners and sojourners” is one of compassion. God rescued Israel from slavery and then commanded them to treat foreigners and sojourners different than they were treated. Through Jesus, God tore down all walls of hostility so that all who trust him, can live obediently to God’s command to “welcome others as God, in Christ, as welcomed you” (Romans 15:7).
Who is a refugee?
Knowing the stories of immigrants and refugees in our own backyard helps remind us of God’s command to love the foreigner and it reminds us of our own status as foreigners in the world.
It puts real faces and names to people that may otherwise remain as a news headline on our TVs.
We asked several refugees to share their experiences in honor of World Refugee Day. As you read these stories over the next few days, be amazed at their resilience. Weep over their struggles. And commit to welcome others in the days to come, whether it’s refugees in our city, or anyone else you come across in your day to day.
Central Local Good Director