For the past few years on the news we have watched boats, often commandeered by human traffickers, crowded with desperate people bobbing helplessly in the Mediterranean Sea, hoping to make it to the shores of Europe. The image on the news last night of the dead little boy washed up on the beach pulled at the heart strings of people around the world, including mine.

I remember exactly 40 years ago when our little country church sponsored a family of “Vietnamese boat people.” The situation today seems eerily similar but for us even to be able to sponsor refugees as churches we need the government to open the doors of our country as Canada did then and Germany and Sweden have done now. So far only one of the three major party leaders in Canada has specifically assured us that they would double the number of refugees allowed. “Stay the course” and “we’ll address it” are not acceptable answers in a crisis.

To work for stability in the countries where people are fleeing from is the deepest solution. How to do that is beyond me but I know one way that does not work. The approach to bomb the hell out of ISIS has not been shown to be particularly effective. With every counter-offensive they just seem to become more hellish.

My first response is to lament. The perishing of desperate people fleeing for their lives breaks God’s heart; it is not right. I am reminded of a quote from Harry Huebner, professor emeritus of CMU, who has spent considerable time in the Middle East.

“God is just, gracious, loving, kind, and in control of the world. There is something wrong when reality shows otherwise. Lament is an admission that things are not as they ought to be, and not as they forever will be, for we do not lament over things that are as they ought to be… I believe that today we are in danger of losing the art of lament. Perhaps that is because we believe, and I have heard it said, that rather than complain, we should try to change things. But the truth is that not everything can be changed.”

Perhaps this is one of those times. My second response is gratitude about living in Canada. I don’t know how or why I am so fortunate to be born here and not in Syria [Well, some of it does come from the benefits gained from the genocide of the host people on this continent as stated in earlier blogs]. Regardless who becomes the prime minister of Canada in October, life will be better for most people here than for most people in Syria. For this I am humbly thankful.

Out of our gratitude and lament we can call for our governments and churches to act in helpful ways within their power as institutions.  We can give a little extra to MCC at a festival and relief sale this fall and when we have opportunity we can open our guest rooms for those who need shelter. Although solving the refugee crisis is obviously more complicated than our small acts, they are not insignificant.

This article is part of a September Synchro-Blog on the Middle-Eastern Refugee Crisis at: http://mennonerds.com/special-blog-series/mennonerds-speak-on-the-refugee-crisis/

It is also #5 in my Canadiana series.

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