By Holly Cunningham
Chaos. Destruction. Confusion. Brokenness.
Chaos is found in the horrifying moments when bombs fall from the sky, destroying buildings and bodies in a single explosion. Destruction of lives, hopes and dreams ensues as concrete collapses and pain arises. Confusion fills the air as families wonder if their loved ones are still alive and relief workers struggle to piece together what has been lost. Brokenness follows as the reality sets in that hatred has created these unspeakable acts, precious life has ended, and terror will continue overtaking the lives of human beings.
Chaos. Destruction. Confusion. Brokenness. This is reality for hundreds of thousands of refugees across the globe who live in war-torn countries, many trying desperately to escape.
Where is hope? Where is the world’s compassion?
Lately I have felt it difficult to find either. That is, until I stumbled upon a story on the news feed of my Facebook page. It was about a six-year-old boy named Alex and his letter to now former President Barack Obama.
Alex had seen the disturbing photo of a young Syrian boy named Omran, sitting in an ambulance after an airstrike, hurt and alone. Recognizing that the pain Omran was experiencing was not something any person should have to withstand, Alex wrote a letter to the President expressing his desire that Omran be brought to the United States to live with him. He described the ways in which they could play together, share their toys, and build lasting friendships. Alex expressed loving kindness in the sincerest way possible; he genuinely believed that Omran deserved to find safety and peace amidst the chaos of his life.
While countless adults witnessed this photo and shared it on social media, Alex, though only a child, was trying to find a tangible way to offer support. His compassion and bravery shine through this letter. At such a young age, he is not yet blinded by fear or prejudice. He does not worry that Omran looks different than him, or that they come from separate lands. He does not care that they might worship differently or practice unique traditions. Instead, Alex saw another human being in need of love, and he shared that love in the best way he knew how.
Amid this refugee crisis, it is easy to turn a blind eye. It is simple to share an article here and there, or to follow news accounts reporting the tragedy without thinking about it too deeply. It is difficult, however, to reach out in concrete ways. But if we refuse to take action, who will?
If we cannot offer support to individuals at their moments of deepest need, how can we expect others to help us in our own moments of brokenness? Self-centered ways of thinking have no place in the crisis.
Christ calls us to love our neighbors; to welcome the stranger; to feed the hungry; to care for the sick. In Matthew 25:40 Jesus says, “truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Sometimes in the midst of brokenness a voice of hope comes from one of the least of these, like a child who has the vision to see beauty beyond the chaos in life.
We are called to offer love and compassion, just as Alex so willingly did.
There are countless ways in which we can get involved, even in our own cities. We can volunteer with resettlement agencies such as World Relief. We can participate in events which celebrate the diversity and traditions of all peoples. We can get to know the communities of refugees living near us and offer our friendship and support. We can raise awareness of these issues by being brave enough to recognize and talk about real problems. And most importantly, we can appreciate the humanity of every individual, whom God created and loves unconditionally.
We can be a source of safety and love, if only we have the vision.
Holly Cunningham, a CBF Leadership Scholar, is from Louisville, Ky., and has worked as an elementary school teacher for three years. She is currently a first-year student at Wake Forest University School of Divinity.