How many refugees left their homes in the last minute, somewhere in the world? According to a United Nations report issued today, on World Refugee Day, last year there were 20 people every minute that were driven from their homes. That is about one every three seconds, which would be less than the time I taking to write this one sentence. The total in 2016 was a staggering 65.5 million people displaced from their homes. With the increased intensity of the civil war in Syria in the first six months of 2017, and the battles to dislodge ISIS from Mosul and other cities in Iraq, that number may well increase.
According to the report, “Children account for more than half of the 22.5 million refugees seeking asylum in the world.” We can all remember the harrowing images of the Syrian child washed up on the shore dead in Europe, and too many other images of the human devastation from the conflict in Syria. And what is perhaps worst of all is that there is no end in sight. The Syrian civil war continues to rage, and more and more people are uprooted by the day. In Iraq ISIS may be facing its end soon in terms of control of major population centers, but it will take time for millions to return home. The Afghan conflict has the danger of becoming even more intense, and perhaps a new wave of refugees displaced by Taliban advances.
So on this World Refugee Day, we pause again to cry out to God for mercy, to cry out for these millions that face such an uncertain future. But in all this darkness there are indeed signs of hope. That hope is not represented in the potential end of conflicts, as desired as that may be. Rather the hope is in people around the world that are caring for refugees and immigrants. Our oldest daughter is one of those that is looking to help in refugee care and placement. She spent several weeks in Berlin, Germany a few months ago, sharing hope and love with Syrians and Iraqis. Now she has applied for employment to work with refugees in the United States. She is one of so many that are already involved, or hoping to be involved. We should celebrate all of them, It is an overwhelming need in human devastation. But that is being met by human love and caring. We pray for so many more.
On this World Refugee Day, please lift up thoughts and prayers for the millions of lives affected. In Jordan last year, I met a young Syrian from Aleppo who was contacted by our mission workers in a camp, and encouraged in his Christian faith to believe and hope. The day I met him he had finally received his visa to immigrate to the United States. His family was already there, in California. I loved his heart and passion. For freedom, for life. I told him I could only imagine the scene when he arrived at the airport in San Francisco. Of all his family rushing to hug him, to welcome him.
There are many good people in this world of hate and war. We must not give up welcoming and loving.