NCC News: Refugee Voices

Written by Jim Winkler,
President and General Secretary
National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA

On September 21, I traveled to New York City to participate in a global day of prayer and action for Syria on the occasion of the International Day of Peace. Part of me, I confess, selfishly wonders whether an event like this accomplishes anything and whether I was wise to use my time to be in attendance.

And, then, I heard a powerful young woman, Sana Mustafa, share her story and that of her family. Sana participated in 2011 in the demonstrations and rallies to bring a revolution to Syria. Subsequently, her father was detained by the government. She noted he has been confined for 1,170 days, and her family has no idea if he is alive.

Sana was in the United States when her father was taken into custody and was advised not to return to Syria. She was granted political asylum here and considers herself extremely fortunate to be safe. She also noted that the United States requires people like her to reimburse the government for the cost of her flight to this country and charges them various additional fees, including that of filing for asylum.

Short-term medical insurance and financial assistance is provided for those fleeing for their lives. After that, they're on their own. She urged us to reach out to refugees, to talk to them, to teach them how to catch a bus, obtain and establish credit, and how to find a job, among other things.

The entire Middle East is in the midst of a conflagration. Hundreds of thousands perished as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and countless others have suffered in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Turkey, Lebanon, and elsewhere.

Untold billions of dollars worth of weapons have been sent to or sold to the region for decades, particularly to Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Despite that, the Middle East is as violent as ever. Should even more weapons flow into the region?

We have been seduced into the bogus notion that peace comes through strength, that walls must be built, people must be tortured, wars must be waged, hatreds must be nourished, everyone must come under suspicion, surveillance and vigilance must be heightened, and draconian measures must be taken.

It is in opposition to this negative and deadly perspective, this anti-Christian worldview, that I made my witness by being part of the global day of prayer and action for Syria. It is because I believe the peacemakers are truly blessed that I take my stand as a follower of Christ.


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