Over the past few months, some members of my congregation have wondered how to respond to the massive upheaval of humanity occurring in Europe. It has been made plain to us that the best way to help a Syrian family is to clear a spot in the refugee “pipeline” by helping a family, any refugee family, from any part of the world.
Tomorrow, a family will arrive at JFK, having journeyed overnight from Johannesburg. They have lived for several years in Pretoria after fleeing Somalia. They have endured a number of the same difficulties as those who have fled Syria.
Tomorrow, this family will move to New Jersey, whose governor is one of many to make it clear that certain refugees are not welcome here. Not even orphaned children. Mr. Christie may well be aware that our family will likely be practicing Muslims. They will likely bear the scars of oppression and violence. They are already pawns in our unloving, unfaithful, uncharitable public political discourse.
Tomorrow, we’ll take the family to a well furnished apartment in our community. The refrigerator will be full of groceries. We’ll help get children registered for school and assist the adults in finding employment. We’re setting the family up with ESL tutors, will help the family with doctor visits, transportation, and other needs. The members of our congregation have done this in concert with the families of our Nursery School and the help of many others. As a community, we’ve pulled together. Frankly, we’re more likely to continue to do so, the more our governor tries to appease voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. We want to make it plain tomorrow: Chris Christie does not speak for us.
Tomorrow, our faith is made manifest in our response to one family. It is a faith born out of the belief that we are called to act rather than merely speak. We are called to love rather than speak of love. Our love may have already been scorned by our Governor and ultimately, it may be spurned by the family. But, that should not stop us from acting.
Tomorrow, the crisis in Syria will likely still be largely unintelligible for most of us. The only way I can begin to make sense of it is in this way: There’s a family somewhere in the world seeking refuge. They either are or have been in great danger. The family could hail from Syria, but they could be from another war-torn part of the world. I must ask once again: What can I do?
Tomorrow, they’ll be here. I pray that tomorrow, we will do as God calls us to do.