The conflict began around 5 years ago in 2011. The war and violence has caused nearly 13.5 million refugees and displaced people. Many of these refugees are children. For many, life was normal. People went to work, attending school, and lived life. When the bombs started dropping people fled.
Today was a powerful day at my church. In cooperation with Epworth United Methodist Church and the Syrian American Council, we welcomed several Syrian refugees to Meridian Street United Methodist Church to hear their stories and learn how we can respond as people of faith.
We learned about the beginning of the conflict. It began with people simply wanting freedom from the Assad regime. One family fled and went to Egypt. The other family present this morning sought refuge in Jordan. They were able to make it out alive after being beaten, tortured, and some were even imprisoned for a time in Syria.
It was powerful to hear their stories. We heard that a mother gave birth in a refugee camp in Jordan. Many of them have no idea if their loved ones are living or dead. In fact, the facilitator of the program gave a little boy, maybe 5 years old, a chance to speak. He spoke in Arabic and was translated saying, “I hope my dad is alive. We don’t know where he is.”
The father of the other family shared that he wants to find a job . A major issue in the refugee camps throughout the Middle East in places like Turkey and Jordan is that people can’t find a way to provide for themselves. This man wants to work and provide for his family. In fact, he shared that he makes sweets, also known as a confectioner. I hope this man can make the sweets he likes to bake. That’s a great gift that everyone can appreciate regardless of religion or political affiliation.
The families we met this morning are grateful for the opportunity to live in Indiana. They have lost everything. The history of a once proud and ancient country. The place they called home. The marketplace, the streets they walked, the buildings they knew so well, all gone. The least we can do is welcome them as our neighbor. What we can do as Christians is welcome them in love.
Throughout Scripture, we are commanded to welcome the stranger, alien, or foreigner (depending on translation). In Deuteronomy 10: 19, we read “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Not to mention the words of Jesus in Matthew 25, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
Welcome me. That’s what Jesus asks of his followers. We can’t follow Jesus only when it’s easy or convenient. If we claim this faith, then we have to welcome. We have to love. We have to care for the families in Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, and Indianapolis. Welcome me when the bombs begin to drop. Welcome me when I have no place to go. Welcome me when I have no place to lay my head. Welcome me.