World Refugee Day: A Moral Imperative

June 20th is designated as World Refugee Day. This year it is also the day the UNHCR reported that the number of refugees and displaced persons has exceeded 60 Million for the first time since the organization began keeping track in 1950. Over 60 Million. That means one in every 113 people living on the planet today have been driven from their homes due to persecution, conflict and violence or human rights violations.

It may be the greatest refugee humanitarian crisis in history. It certainly is the worst since World War II. The Refugee Crisis touches on nearly every area of international/national concern: conflict, security, economy, poverty, borders, health care, jobs. It’s certainly been a political football in American politics, as global instability and economic uncertainty demand a response and a plan. We have a choice as the richest, most powerful nation in the world of how to respond to this crisis. The sides have been pretty clearly (sometimes forcefully) stated. I don’t need to reiterate them here.

As a Christian I believe it is a moral imperative to respond with generosity and compassion in the face of human suffering unlike I have seen in my lifetime. Its a commandment of Christ. Care for the displaced, the foreigner, the widow and the orphan is emphatically repeated again and again throughout Scripture, Old and New Testament. Its black and white. Beyond what my faith dictates, as a citizen of the United States, I also think this is an issue of historical consequence. I’ll put it this way: My kids and grandkids will learn about this time in history. It should be clear now, but it will be clear in the future the scale of this humanitarian crisis. There will be an accounting of the response or lack thereof, especially from my own nation.

If you’re reading this what I would ask you do is educate yourself on what is really happening in the Refugee Crisis. I began learning about it in 2011 through the work International Orthodox Christian Charities has been doing to help displaced persons since the beginning of the Syrian civil war. Learn more here about the work IOCC has been doing. I would urge you to learn the facts about what the United States is doing towards refugee relief, especially the process through which a refugee must go through to be resettled in the U.S. There is a great deal of fear and disinformation in our current political climate. Here is a recent article concerning rhetoric from the Trump campaign. Sadly, as noted in this article, the aid to refugees, which used to receive bipartisan support has become a polarized issue. Considering the scope and seriousness of this crisis, this is the worst time for politics to get in the way of the historic generosity of the United States towards displaced people.

I would also urge you to find out more about local and regional organizations that help with the relocation process for refugees. These are non-political organizations that actually know the process and can tell the stories of relocated refugees. I’ve learned so much from getting in touch with Exodus Refugee in Indianapolis. Getting to know them has opened my eyes to reality and cleared away the fog of politics.

Finally, I would ask you to consider signing the UNHCR’s petition to demand greater international assistance to addressing the refugee crisis. You can watch a video about it here, and find the petition here.