“You have to understand, no one would put their children in a boat unless the sea is safer than the land,” wrote the Somali-British poet Warsan Shire in her poem about the refugees leaving their home country. But we are well aware that the sea is not safe.
The refugee crisis has escalated to a very worrying degree, and we can no longer ignore it. Refugees from Syria, Libya, Iraq and other countries are on the Europe’s doorstep. While some responses to the crisis are encouraging, there are many stories that are in fact disturbing. What can we do? First of all, pray. This may seem like an easy way out or an insufficient response, but it is neither.
We Christians believe in a God who was a refugee himself. Jesus, when he was still a child, had to flee to Egypt with Mary and Joseph, because it was not safe for them to stay in their home country. Jesus knows on a very personal level what the refugees are going through. In prayer we can ask Jesus to help them as they seek refuge from war. An act of prayer involves trust: we have to believe that our prayer is effective even when we do not know its fruit. We will not know how our prayers in this situation are going to be answered, but we are still called to entrust the people in need to God’s loving care. Maybe our prayers are going to give strength to those who are helping the refugees on the ground, or even inspire action that will create a very practical response. Maybe the prayers will comfort someone who lost a family member in their desire for survival.
Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:40)”. Prayer does not exclude action, on the contrary, a heartfelt prayer often inspires it. Yet even in itself, prayer is valuable. In this case, it has a potential to comfort and sustain people fleeing from war-torn countries not to give up. For many of us even reading the news has been quite overwhelming and it may seem like we are unable to pray vocally. Even sharing in the pain through our heartfelt compassion, with the loving posture of our heart, is a prayer. God can see what is in our hearts, even when words don’t come.
We would like to invite each of us to keep the refugees and those who have the power to help in your daily prayers. Make the prayer as specific as the Spirit leads you. Maybe even write a list of intentions you will pray for, or simply stand before God with an open heart.
If while praying, within your heart you recognise stirring to do something, if a prayer leads you to act, may God be your guide. If we each do our little bit, we can do a lot.
Dr Iva Beranek is the Ministry Facilitator for the CMH: Ireland