How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land? – Psalm 137:4
During the predawn hours of September 2, 2015, the body of a young boy washed ashore on a tranquil beach in western Turkey. The boy was born into war, a son of Kobani, Syria, a town that was once a stomping ground for the Islamic State.
His family had tried to flee before, each time repelled or discouraged enough to return home. The West did not want them, the East could not take them, and even their motherland could do nothing but cough them up the way a retching warzone must.
The night the boy died, the smugglers that manned the vessel were trying to float their desperate cargo to the Greek island of Kos, but the overloaded rubber boat didn’t last long before capsizing. At least a dozen people drowned.
And Jesus wept.
The old, oblivious world died that night, the night that Aylan Kurdi became the poster child for cataclysm.
The West’s wake-up call came at the expense of a life—thousands of lives. And in the morning, when front pages and blogs and tweets sang the funeral dirge for a boy they’d never known, the brittle veneer of humanitarianism and moral politics finally crumbled. The world could no longer look away.
As more lives and hopes are extinguished every day, the fire of the global refugee crisis only becomes more blinding. Even in a turbulent age where every moral argument is a battleground and where skin colors, passports, and religions are scenes of political carnage, the refugee crisis is the greatest social problem facing our world. There are 65.6 million forcibly displaced people on the planet today, more than at any time since World War II. For the Christian—no less than for every other conscientious person—the presence of refugees stacked nearly on top of one another in so many cities and spread fraught and hungry across so many wastelands must be a daily reminder of our broken world and our mission to it.
That brokenness has been allowed to run rampant.
Fallenness has gone in too many places unchecked.
The evil that is happening there has quietly festered and turned into evil here in the form of willful neglect and deliberate rejection.
The wreckage and corpses and felt needs are beyond critical mass. It was time to act yesterday.
I’ll never forget the refugee boys and girls from Syria—children who fled their homeland for a chance to survive, to start again. Some of them had grown so accustomed to the sounds of war that they said now they have trouble sleeping without the soothing sound of military aircraft and shouting soldiers outside.
When I told a woman from Idlib about a fight I’d seen in downtown Beirut in which two men had broken a storefront window, she asked if I would take her to the place. “I miss the fighting,” she said with a dry somberness that made me wonder if she was serious.
Refugees I met from Aleppo and Hesakeh and Homs sleep with the light on or with headphones or with a homemade weapon within reach.
For many young people who left war, their lives were built in chaos and desperation and heartache. They don’t know any other way. They will never be the same.
The picture is bleak, and to paint it is to paint hell.
The love of God is stronger than hell.
Even now there is hope. Even now there is an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Even now the Church can serve as an answer to so many millions of heartfelt prayers.
Still, there is a refuge.