Loving our Syrian Neighbors

Loving your neighbor is a lot easier to do when you actually know your neighbor. We’re more likely to love those who are close to us and who we have regular contact with, but our global neighbors are in need of our love and compassion, too. While browsing the happenings of today, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the tragedies in Aleppo, Syria. Innocent Syrians are being injured and killed, chlorine gas attacks are swamping the city, and hospitals are being targeted. I was moved after hearing appalling stories, as told by a surgeon in the midst of all the destruction.

These awful accounts of children struggling for their lives, wanting an end to the violence, plagued my mind. Violence shows no mercy. Violence isn’t limited to “over there.” Jesus’ love knows no boundaries. His love shines to all with no limits. As Brethren, we are quite familiar with the actions of peace. The Brethren Resolution of 1991, recount “during the early 1940s, in the midst of wartime hysteria, Brethren pioneered in the resettlement of Americans of Japanese ancestry who were interned in U.S. evacuation camps during World War II[28]“ Throughout history Brethren have proved their radical actions of peacemaking.
Some fear that ISIS will infiltrate through the refugee program so our borders should remain closed to refugees. Yet our Brethren values, founded in Christ’s teachings, compel us to help those in need and welcome them with open arms.The current vetting process for a refugee isn’t easy. This lengthy process can take years and many refugees are declined throughout the process. The United State is accepting a very small number of refugees compared to some other countries. More refugees were taken in by Germany in 2015 than were taken in the US in 10 years. Peacemaking isn’t always an easy task. One of the Brethren Peace statements says, “Jesus’ way of life leaves no doubt that peacemaking is rigorous and costly.” We, as followers of Christ, we must show love to all, unconditionally. I’m proud to say that I have witnessed churches trying to do just that. Jesus calls us out to radically love one another. Psalm 82:4 says, “Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Doesn’t that describe plight of the Syrian refugees? May we show radical love to everyone, no matter where they may stand in the world. Our love should have no limits based on geography. Our love should have no limits based on gender, age, social class, or anything in between.

Recent actions by our government don’t live up to this ideal, however. Thirty governors have asked that Syrian resettlement in the United States be stopped. There are bills being proposed that would limit the amount of refugees that could come to the US annually, some blocking Syrians and Nigerians specifically. As followers of Christ, we need to speak out in support of the most vulnerable. The fight for shelter, food, and even water is a common struggle under the rubble of areas knocked down by the hatred of others. Refugees aren’t seeking shelter for a better life, they are just searching for life. May we give them the hospitality so they may not only survive, but thrive. Their struggling has gone on for too long. It seems that our compassion has been limited to geography.

As followers of Christ, we need to be aware of the harsh realities facing many Syrians and others struggling in the midst of violence. As these attacks continue in Syria, and elsewhere, we offer prayers and hope for a swift and lasting resolution to these conflicts. September 21st, the International Day of Peace, we will come together in prayer for those in Syria and other areas of conflict. Will you join us to pray and work beyond these barriers?

Learn more at- http://www.refugeesarewelcome.org/
Tell congress and your governor- http://support.brethren.org/site/MessageViewer?em_id=35018.0
“Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” –Psalm 82:4

Peace to all,

Emerson Goering

Peacebuilding and Policy Associate

Office of Public Witness

Stories from Nigeria: Rev. L

By Cliff Kindy, Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteer reporting from Nigeria
Names abbreviated for security purposes.

Rev. L explains he is the district secretary for Attagara District of EYN and is from Attagara Village. On June 3, 2014, Boko Haram raided Attagara. Sixty-eight people died in the attack and sixty-five of them were from EYN. The raiders burned seven churches including the only EYN congregation. Unfortunately the other eleven churches in his district fell to the flames of Boko Haram as well as most of the EYN churches in the three neighboring districts.

Rev. L fled across the border to Cameroon while his wife and children fled to Michika. When Michika came under attack in early September the family reunited in Cameroon. Their new home was a refugee camp run by the United Nations. There were thirty thousand neighbors in their new home. The well that supplied the camp ran dry, the nearby river is without water now during the dry season and the nearest village is far enough away that those going for water may choose to stay overnight.

The UN sometimes only brings enough food for seven thousand people so the community has been good and shared what is available. The camp is far enough from the border that Boko Haram raids into Cameroon have not reached the camp but security officials from Cameroon recently rounded up nine people from the camp they accused of being Boko Haram.

People want to return to Nigeria but there continues to be very high risk in their home communities. Boko Haram dumped dead bodies in the wells of Attagara. All the homes are burned there. Even if Boko Haram leaves will they plant explosives as they depart and what about the family members who joined Boko Haram and choose to live in Attagara? But how long will Cameroon continue to host these visitors in the UN camp? Is there a safe place to go in Nigeria?

Most of the EYN refugees are farmers and would be willing to stay in Cameroon. Rev. L plans to visit the government to see if there is a large plot of land where the refugees could settle and farm. He also wants to see about some smaller plots to build five EYN churches. He has decided to stay in Cameroon and work with the church.

You see there are fifteen thousand EYN members in the camp. Since the camp is divided into five wards or sections each ward has an EYN congregation that numbers about three thousand people. There are three ordained EYN pastors and twenty-three evangelists very engaged in the life of these congregations. There have been fifty-three baptisms and two hundred thirty-five births among the EYN members. Their neighbors in the camp are about nine thousand Catholics, four thousand Muslims and one or two thousand Christians from other denominations. Are you interested in helping to plant new EYN churches in Cameroon?