Contributed by James Naugle and edited by Laura Walls in Ideas for your Ministry
Jim Naugle is one of the Leadership Team members for the New York/New Jersey area and inspires both his regional team and the national team with his passion and heart! He joins us on the blog today to share a two-part post: first, how we can change the dialogue about refugees, followed by how we can position ourselves for action on the refugee crisis.
As World Vision Child Ambassadors, we've learned about the refugee crisis in Syria - the 12 million displaced people, and the fact that more than half of these are children. We know about the leaky tents, the lost loved ones, the 4 million children who are unable to attend school. We are aware that the refugee children need ongoing financial help and we have volunteered to help obtain it for them. We can’t imagine any other reaction but compassion and generosity in the face of such overwhelming need. Yet in Rich Stearns' book, Understanding the Syria Crisis and the Role of the Church, he points out that World Vision US raised barely $700,000 in each of the first four years of the Syrian conflict. This stands in sharp contrast to the $8 million raised in the first week after the 2015 earthquake in the Nepal.
Recently at the Collyde Summit in New Jersey, Rich pointed out that we are having the wrong conversation about Syria. When we hear discussions about refugees, too often it is about fear of terrorists infiltrating our borders and how their suffering affects us. Much of the news coverage has been missing the fact that at the heart of this conflict, millions of innocent lives have been changed forever.
One day in September 2015, many of us woke up to see the picture of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s body washed up on the shore in Turkey. The boat that his family had boarded to escape Syria’s war-torn landscape had capsized and Aylan, his brother, and his mother perished. Later that day it was on the national news. People couldn't look away, they were outraged, and many asked what they could do to help. For an optimistic moment, it looked like the tide had turned and people were beginning to understand what was happening on the other side of the world. Soon after however, the news cycle turned away from the refugee crisis and the conversation turned to more domestic issues.
Then on August 17, 2016 another little boy became the face of the Syrian refugee children. Omran Daqneesh was pulled from the rubble of his home in Aleppo. The video of him sitting, bloody and dazed, in the back of an ambulance traveled around the world. Once more there was awareness, outrage, and an increase in the outreach and involvement of American citizens.
Approximately two months later, I'd like to think that we are seeing a change. Mainstream outlets like CNN are posting opinion pieces with titles like “Why Syrian Children Should be a Global Priority”. Videos showing residents of Aleppo emerging from hiding during a recent cease-fire are being featured on the evening news. The New York Times posted a number of photos showing children caught in the crossfire of the conflict, comparing one of the girls to Anne Frank. And CNN tried to enhance understanding of how vast the worldwide refugee crisis is by posting an article entitled “What 15 Million Kids Looks Like.” (They would fill 2.27 million school buses and fill the largest college football stadium in the U.S. 464 times). FOX News has even covered the recent UN conference where world leaders focused on the refugee crisis and the Syrian conflict.
Maybe, just maybe, the conversation is changing and the American viewer is beginning to see more of the human side of this refugee crisis. And as they learn more about the refugees, many will be more open to asking what they can do to help.
That's where we come in.
We are positioned to be the experts, to be the ones to go to churches, talk to friends, to post on Facebook, and spread the word that we know of a great way to help. We know of an organization that has been working with the poor and oppressed for over 65 years. We can share about a group that has been in Syria since before the crisis began. We are involved with a charity that is a good steward of funds that provides food, shelter, clean water, healthcare, psychological counseling, school, and a safe place for children to just be kids. We know that encouraging people who care to partner with World Vision and become refugee responders is one of the most effective ways to support humanitarian efforts in Syria. We know these things and now is the time to share them.
The world is finally ready to listen.
Position Yourself to Take Action on the Refugee Crisis in 5 Steps
1. PRAY. Pray for the refugees. Pray for open hearts. Pray for the opportunity to reach as many people as you can with this message. Pray over the folders. Pray that you will find the part of this crisis that resonates with you and pray for the Holy Spirit to provide the words to transfer that passion to your listeners.
Also, pray for the nation of Syria. Below is a prayer by Dr. Chawkat Moucarry, who grew up as a Christian in Syria. Join him in prayer for Syria, for guidance, and for understanding of this crisis.
2. Get an overview:
Read through the Pastor Talking Points for the Refugee Crisis (below). It’s just a few pages long and there is a wealth of information about the crisis and what World Vision is doing about it. Also, I would recommend Rich Stearns' free book, Understanding the Syria Crisis and the Role Of the Church (below). You can download it to your computer, iPad, or Kindle. It’s a quick read and it covers a lot of different angles of the crisis. You can also find more information on the volunteers page and the church resources page.
2. Check out some videos. Nothing is more moving than hearing from the refugee children themselves. There are lots of videos to chose from, but my favorites are “What Would You take?” and “The Impact of the War on Children.” If you’re hungry for more videos and other fantastic resources, check out the volunteers.worldvision.org.
4. Organize your thoughts. Until I wrote out a presentation, I couldn’t get all my thoughts together on the scope of the crisis. We may be called upon to talk to someone while waiting for the kids at school or at book group and we need to be ready. It may be nothing more than “I saw a moving video on Youtube. Have you heard anything about the Syrian Refugee Crisis?" Conversely, you may be called upon to give a 5 minute (or longer) presentation in a small group or Sunday service. Once I had an outline in mind, I was much more confident in approaching local churches about presenting a Refugee Sunday.
5. Talk to your leader for help. I can assure you that the members of the leadership team are SO passionate about this topic and they are ACHING to speak to you and help you in any way they can. Drop an email to your leader and you will get the guidance you need. If you don’t know who your leader is, check here or here, or contact the Child Ambassador Help Desk via email at CAHelpdesk@worldvision.org and they will point you in the right direction.
Greater Together is a collaborative blog written by volunteer child ambassadors for World Vision.