Tonight, as I watched Syrians gather in my city to light a candle and say a prayer in hopes that God would intervene upon Aleppo, I asked myself, "aren't we part of the answer to that prayer?"
I don’t know why tonight I’m writing this. Or if anyone even reads these entries. But it needs to get out. Before I was too much a coward to share how I feel about the situation in Syria and our response to the refugee crisis. It's the biggest catastrophe in the world happening in my generation, and yet I've been silent.
I’m a white, 29 year old, Christian, American who grew up in an upper middle class family where the most dangerous thing that ever happened in our neighborhood was an “almost” break in. I did not choose this world, I was “privileged” to it, but I am daily responsible, associated and confronted by it. Where I come from. What my nationality is. And what I have to say, on behalf of those things.
Before I left home at 20 years old, moved to Germany and started traveling the world, my perspective of the world was constrictedby the boarders in which I never went out of. When you live like that, you see crossing of boarders as a scary, dangerous thing. The unknown brings far greater fear then curiosity and excitement, paralyzing you to a world where you look at everything from the outside looking in. A safe world. You become a gold fish. But I wanted to know if this really was “The World”. So I jumped over. Out of the jar and into the great big pond. And what I found was that with every step further you take out of your comfort zone, the more comfortable you become with different zones.
“What to do with this whole Syrian mess”.
I have been on both sides of this conversation. I live in Germany, a country that far to well understands the consequence of closing boarders to foreigners, yet it is now one of the leading countries in refugee welcoming and intake. I have seen a system for this intake, and worked within that system, that is not perfect, but functioning. I have seen an integration of a culture inside another culture that is actually working. I have been part of the welcoming process. Not only did I witness with my own eyes how Refugees cross boarders into Germany and go through thorough processing, but I have also been part of the mandatory 6 month integration courses necessary for their visas- because I too ( also a foreigner) had to go through it as well. Uli worked 1 night a week for 6 months at a Refugee home for teenage boys. I have very close friends who are refugees whom I spend time with hearing their personal stories and experiences. I have seen the side of allowing Refugees in.
“Oh but Liz, you’re biased, you’ve only seen the ‘good’ side, the ‘easy, sweet, life is covered with rainbows’ side. What about the terrorism? It's real you know. You KNOW.”- Anonymous
I was in Paris on the night of the Paris attacks. 30 seconds away, one subway stop back from missing the suicide bomb. I too was terrified. Running down the streets of Paris. Angry, scared, confused with hate in my heart and no room for acceptance and understanding. I've sense been back to Paris twice. I’ve been in Africa (I'll not give specifics), locked inside a compound while rebel soldiers and terrorist fought outside on the streets killing off the innocent people I came to serve and ministry to. I've been back 7 times. The Orlando attacks, which took place a few blocks away from where I grew up, devastated not only my city, my family, my friends, my neighbors, my country, but me. I will always go back.
You see, I see both sides. I didn’tlook in on the situation from my fish tank and make a decision based on what I’ve been told- I’ve made one based on what I’ve experienced. I get the immense amount of dedication, time, finances, and effort that it takes a culture to open up their boarders and let a whole new culture in. I get the fear. I understand that (even though there is a meer .01% chance, of any of the refugees let into our country, participating in terrorist activities) fear alone without anything else to counter it, makes us want to guard ourselves from those risks. But through both sides, I’ve decided that I am going to choose be on the side of that risk.
Next weekend millions across the world will be celebrating the life of a refugee child who’s parents too had to flee their own land, wander across dangerous boarders, be denied a home, and subject to deliver a child in a dirty, cold barn, in order for one message to be delivered across the world: Love one another, as I have loved you, so you also must love one another- Jesus. Oh that Jesus guy. I love him. He does not teach us to love without risk. To love when it is convenient. To love only when it is safe. To love when there is no risk of danger. He teaches us to love without boundaries. He teaches us, that if He were walking this earth today, He would even open up His doors for those .01% without a second thought. I think Jesus would probably spend most of his time today in refugee camps and with politicians trying to convince them to open their boarders. But the good news is: He doesn't NEED to come back for that, He has US to do that. He's a risk taker giving us the way to be one too. Because to love "risk-fully", is to show who God is. And who God is, is a father, desperately trying to prove to His children that they are worth every risk.
I would much rather spend my life with that .01% chance of risk, no a 100% chance of risk, knowing that I loved fearlessly, then a life of safety, knowing my love reached as far as the borders and boundaries I confined myself to. How would love even get in there? So, I dare you. Jump out of the fish bowl. Go love someone who looks, acts, believes differently then you, and I think you will find that there is actually not so much a difference. And for goodness safes, let these people in. Let these children have a chance. Let these men know they are made for greatness. And these women know that the world is not to scared to love them.
As I lit a candle with my Syrian friends, knelt down around the lights that spelled out “Aleppo” and listen to the cries of people around us pleading for mercy, I was reminded of one thing:
A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. And I lose nothing by always choosing love.