“To live charitably means not looking out for our own interests, but carrying the burdens of the weakest and poorest among us.” – Pope Francis
According the U.N. General Assembly website, the summits were held to “address large movements of refugees and migrants, with the aim of bringing countries together behind a more humane and coordinated approach. This is the first time the General Assembly has called for a summit at the Heads of State and Government level… [and] is a historic opportunity to come up with a blueprint for a better international response.”
At Food for the Hungry, we often partner with the U.N. and other organizations to work toward conditions for peace and dream together of a world without war. Many of our programs help reconcile communities and bring groups of opposition together. We work to end attitudes of violence. We bring a biblical perspective to communities that need a message of peace and we help them on their journey to implement those practices into their everyday lives. And in times of war, we respond to help refugees and migrants.
According to the U.N., there are 65.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. This is a complex crisis full of chronic problems. It is serious and difficult. Before we can solve anything, we must start by asking ourselves what causes war and disparity.
There are four essential relationships to maintaining peace: relationship with God, relationship with other people, relationship with the created world and relationship with self. Without peace in these relationships, disparity will always exist. As if these relationships aren’t difficult enough, they’re further complicated by major crises such as lack of access to food/water, lack of education and a lack of gender equality. None of this can improve without hope.
As people working toward peace, our response must be holistic and comprehensive. It must address root issues and provide purpose. When a solution only addresses the surface problem and fails to consider the whole person, the violence and desperation will only continue, and in the case of the refugee crisis, create further radicalization of the youth in these communities who are desperate to escape by any means necessary.
Complicated, right? Especially when looking at the problem on a grand scale. But in light of large statistics and increasing complications, we can never forget the individuals behind the numbers.
It takes profound empathy and humility to be a peacemaker. We have to know people by name. We have to listen to people. We have to know their hopes and fears and enter into that space with them. We seek to understand the plight of each person and embrace him or her as human.
We need to reconcile broken relationships.
While I was working in Rwanda, I met a man named Christophe. During the Rwandan genocide, he fled with his family to the Democratic Republic of Congo. They fearfully hid and ate leaves, bark, seeds and anything else they could find to survive. His father and older brother died in these circumstances, leaving Christophe filled with the spirit of revenge. When I met him, he told me how he had spent much of his time thinking about how to find the killers and make them experience the same pain his family did. But God got ahold of him and changed his heart.
While attending a university, he started an organization called Christian Action for Reconciliation and Social Assistance (CARSA). He invited others to be a part of his team, bringing together Hutus and Tutsis sides into his leadership. Together, they started reconciling relationships between tribes in Rwanda by entering communities and working with individuals. His work was so inspiring that it was turned into a film called “As We Forgive.
Christophe is a great example of how a refugee can take a stand against broken relationships and create an environment of peace in his own community. He knew that it was not OK for broken relationship to remain broken, that without reconciliation there would be further conflict and the cycle of violence would likely continue.
Making a Way for Peace
Not many of us have Christophe’s life experience and personal testimony that helped him pursue that progress.
So, what can we do to help facilitate peace in the current climate of conflict for refugees and migrants?
I believe that we can live intentionally and continually seek right relationships. Not just with those around us, but also those with whom we interact from afar.
I see many people living with an “extractionist mentality,” meaning they only ask “what can I get from you that will benefit me?” Instead we need to ask “will our ideas for peace and happiness also bring happiness to others?” It’s important that we don’t gain more benefit than we give. We must live in community with the people we serve and I’m confident that once these relationships are restored, we may finally know peace.
To read more about how Food for the Hungry helps refugees in times of war and continues to pursue peace, click here.