Our Response to Refugees Defines Us

image of refugees

As I watched an excerpt from the video, Refuge from the Storm, from the October 2016 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, my heart was touched.  Elder Patrick Kearon of the Seventy speaks about our responsibility to reach out to refugees around us.  The Church does so much to help throughout the world and this is a great example to all of us as individuals.  

Each one of us can all reach out in the smallest of ways.  My heart broke as I listened to the words spoken by various refugees from different places, because at any time that could be one of us. Our world is unstable and, as said in that video, these people didn’t ask to leave their homes, to be shot at nor to live under terrible conditions which force them to leave everything they own and have worked for - but this will not define them for forever. It’s just a small space in time and with help and love they can go on to become great, and do great things. Would we not seek the same for ourselves and our children?  I will start to look out for ways that I can help in these things so I can become more like my Saviour. 

image of Elder Patrick Kearon

Elder Patrick Kearon:

“For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me. … Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:35–36, 40)

There are an estimated 60 million refugees in the world today, which means that “1 in every 122 humans … has been forced to flee their homes,”  and half of these are children…

As members of the Church, as a people, we don’t have to look back far in our history to reflect on times when we were refugees, violently driven from homes and farms over and over again. Last weekend in speaking of refugees, Sister Linda Burton asked the women of the Church to consider, “What if their story were my story?” Their story is our story, not that many years ago…

The Savior knows how it feels to be a refugee—He was one. As a young child, Jesus and His family fled to Egypt to escape the murderous swords of Herod. And at various points in His ministry, Jesus found Himself threatened and His life in danger, ultimately submitting to the designs of evil men who had plotted His death. Perhaps, then, it is all the more remarkable to us that He repeatedly taught us to love one another, to love as He loves, to love our neighbor as ourselves. Truly, “pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction” and to “look to the poor and the needy, and administer to their relief that they shall not suffer.” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:35; see also Doctrine and Covenants 81:5)

The possibilities for us to lend a hand and be a friend are endless. You might help resettled refugees learn their host country language, update their work skills, or practice job interviewing. You could offer to mentor a family or a single mother as they transition to an unfamiliar culture, even with something as simple as accompanying them to the grocery store or the school. Some wards and stakes have existing trusted organizations to partner with. And, according to your circumstances, you can give to the Church’s extraordinary humanitarian effort.

Additionally, each one of us can increase our awareness of the world events that drive these families from their homes. We must take a stand against intolerance and advocate respect and understanding across cultures and traditions. Meeting refugee families and hearing their stories with your own ears, and not from a screen or newspaper, will change you. Real friendships will develop and will foster compassion and successful integration.

The Lord has instructed us that the stakes of Zion are to be “a defense” and “a refuge from the storm.” We have found refuge. Let us come out from our safe places and share with them, from our abundance, hope for a brighter future, faith in God and in our fellowman, and love that sees beyond cultural and ideological differences to the glorious truth that we are all children of our Heavenly Father.

Read the full talk here.