American Christians, those who support the refugee ban: I have a friend I would like you to meet.
Let me tell you about my dear friend. He happens to be a refugee in the Middle East, where he and his beautiful family live in an incredibly old refugee camp that looks more like cement apartment complexes than the camps you see on the news. Kind of like a unique sort of small neighborhood.
And, oh yeah, the camp is partially surrounded by a massive, internationally deemed illegal, wall that cuts through their country’s land.
Now, this is not your “normal wall.” It hovers over the camp, 26 feet of concrete intimidation. The wall is complete with security cameras, motion control sensors, and multiple watch towers staffed 24/7 with the finest snipers. It feels as if you are in an open air prison. So maybe unique is the wrong word, it is more like a small neighborhood you might see in a bad, chilling, sci-fi movie.
Another fun (and by fun I mean terrifying) fact about where my friend lives: there are often night raids that can occur at any given moment. What exactly is a night raid? Well, soldiers from the neighboring country (you know those sniper guys and some of their friends who are often posted up on their wall tower) storm in with their big guns, fingers always clasping the trigger, search random houses, and make arrests, often of young boys.
Sometimes, the streets are filled with tear gas and gun fire. Want to resist? It may cause you your life or years in prison. Children too, years of prison for children, let that set in your mind for a moment.
Over the summer, my husband and I were visiting our dear friends and were awoken by the gun fire of these soldiers. The next morning, our friends informed us two young men had been shot. They themselves had spent the night in their young daughters’ room, shielding them on the floor.
This is not an out of the ordinary event. Do you have children? Can you imagine spending regular nights sleeping on the floor to try to keep your children safe from stray bullets?
You see, my friends live under mass oppression, apartheid. Their oppressors treat and look at them as sub-human. No matter who you are, we should all be thoroughly disturbed by this on many levels.
Like every person who faces some sort of oppression, my friend longs for equality. He longs to see his children grow up in peace.
I don’t know about you, but it would be incredibly difficult for me not to be filled with bitterness against my oppressors. I mean really, my friend is more than justified to feel anger and a desire to retaliate, right?
However, my friend is an amazing soul, a far better person than I. One night in conversation, he said to us, “I look at the faces of the young soldiers and I feel for them, I see they feel fear as we do. We are all human. If we could just share our stories with each other we could see our humanity, we could overcome the hate.”
My friend chooses to humanize those who dehumanize him. He chooses to employ empathy when most of us would find it close to impossible to do so. And when there is no rational logic to choose Love, he Loves anyways.
My friend is the most welcoming, humble, kind person I have ever had the honor to know. He doesn’t see an enemy; he sees humanity, and he Loves boldly.
The way he lives his life looks more like the ways of Jesus than any Christian I have ever encountered. In the self-proclaimed “Christian Nation” of the world, we could learn so much about the ways of Love from this Middle Eastern refugee man (go figure).
While our nation is gripped with fear of a fabricated threat that inhibits us from Loving, my friend Loves through true oppression. When our nation fearfully closes its doors to those in need, he welcomes everyone he meets with open gracious arms. What sounds more like the ways of Jesus?
Love others was not just a cute phrase Jesus came up with. It’s a command, on par with Love your god, kind of a big deal.
Instead of arguing fear-based justifications for why we “can’t Love,” let us set a higher standard, one rooted in Love and humanity. Let us learn from my friend, turn our backs on fear, and unify in Love.