Yusra Mardini swam for three hours in the Aegean Sea – not for sport, but for her life. Now 18 years old, Yusra is a Syrian refugee. In the summer of 2015 Yusra’s home was destroyed during a conflict amid her country’s bloody civil war which has already displaced 13.5 million people. Fearing for their safety, Yusra and her sister decided to flee. After escaping capture, she made it to Turkey where she was able to board a small boat headed for safe passage into Greece. Unfortunately, the boat was only meant to hold six people, not 18 refugees. As a result, the motor failed and the boat began to take on water. Bravely, Yusra got into the water and pushed the boat, and her fellow refugees to safety.

team refugees
photo courtesy: UNHCR

On Friday, in Rio de Janeiro, at the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, 10 refugees, including Yusra, marched into the Olympic Stadium representing the Refugee Olympic Team. These 10 brave souls, formerly of Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are competing on the world’s arena without a home to return to and without a country, flag, or national anthem to be played in their honor. They are refugees, representing the millions like them across the globe. Reminding us that at this very moment, over 65 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes, where over 21 million of them are now refugees.[1] Humanity’s evil has left them homeless, without possessions, starved, sick, injured, terrified, widowed and orphaned.

Jesus teaches us that we are to care for those that are homeless, sick, scared, and without family – for those that are refugees. He tells us that we are to care for the foreigner amongst us (Matthew 25:31-46); that we are to do unto others as we would like done unto us (Matthew 7:12); and, to love one another as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31). These aren’t optional – they are commands, obligations, and responsibilities. For if we call ourselves Christians, true followers of Jesus Christ, then we shall not rest until justice prevails and our fellow brothers and sisters, who are created in the same image of God as you and I, are taken care of with dignity and receive appropriate humanitarian aid.

“You will love your neighbor as yourself.” – Jesus

While these 10 brave men and women certainly give us inspiration and hope, we cannot pretend that the other 65 million of them are in similar situations. While these athletes get to compete in Rio, thousands of their fellow refugees will succumb to death – either by starvation, pestilence, or murder. Others will be re-victimized as they will be human-trafficked – raped, tortured, or forced into slave labor. The rest of the men, women, and children will cling to life, merely existing on our city streets, wondering where their next meal will come from or where they’ll lay their head that night.

Thankfully there are countries and people around the world that are welcoming the refugees and addressing this global epidemic. We as Christians, especially those in the United States, need to do our part to help our fellow brothers and sisters. This can be accomplished by contacting our elected officials and encouraging them to help the refugees by governmental means. We can donate our money to one of the many reputable agencies and non-profit organizations that give humanitarian aid to those marginalized and oppressed. And, we can pray.

It is my prayer that we realize that it is only by chance that we were born here and that they were born “over there.” For it is only by the proverbial luck-of-the-draw that I can sit at my desk from the safety of my home, residing in a democratic country that is preserved by all of its freedoms and liberties, while others are displaced, wandering the country side in an underdeveloped country, unsure if their family members are alive or not. It can be our prayer that all of God’s people are treated with love and that each of our inherent human worth is realized and valued by all.

May we see the world with the eyes of Jesus Christ, searching out ways in which we can shine the Light upon the dark corners of this world.

While I am Team USA through and through, I’ll be rooting for the underdogs all the way – the Olympic Refugee Team. #TeamRefugees

 

[1] UNHCR. 2016. “Figures at a Glance.” UN Refugee Agency. June 20. http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/figures-at-a-glance.html.