Today is International Migrants Day.
By Lauren Fisher
She walked for days over countless miles, her belly swollen. The baby within her gave her no peace, stirring and ready to be born. When the time came, uncertainty reigned. She was a stranger there. She wasn’t sure where she could deliver. But on that day as the first cry of her little boy pierced the air, her face broke into a smile. Her hope, her future had entered the world.
This could be the Christmas story we all recount each year, bringing out the wonder of Jesus’ humble birth with the loving reverence reserved for our grandmother’s cookie cutters or our children’s handmade tree ornaments.
But it’s not a story of old. Instead this is Amal‘s story, and it happened in 2015. In her language, her name means ‘hope.’ She fled Iraq while eight months pregnant, journeying across the ocean and walking for days with her husband and young children. Now she faces an uncertain future. Like Jesus, her son was born far from their home.
Whenever I heard the nativity story as a child, I remember thinking not only of the wonder, but of what a scary place the world of Bethlehem seemed to be. A place where kings kill babies and even pregnant women aren’t given a place to sleep.
For the children in conflict areas like Iraq and Syria I’ve spoken with, the world today is every bit as terrifying as the Bethlehem of old. It’s a world where it’s not safe at home, or even at school. Bombs and guns are commonplace and parents, playmates, and teachers are killed in front of them. A place where journeys far from home happen with little warning and with no idea if there’s any chance of ever going back.
The world right now can be a scary place for us in the United States, too. There’s a lot of fear – fear of those who may do us harm, worries of whether our job will be around tomorrow, and the nagging uncertainty of what is next for our world. Unfortunately, from that fear can spring a language of intolerance or anger — one that can paint compassion as naiveté or weakness — a concept that flies in the face of Jesus’ teachings and his own humble beginnings.
But what we know as Christians, then and now, is that perfect love drives out fear.
It’s that love that can stretch over the distance of an ocean, span the divide of a culture many of us have no experience with, and crush the fear of what letting ‘the other’ in may mean. It’s love that sees the scared child or mother as someone who could be ourselves. A love that demands not only our compassion, but our action.
This means using kind words and not isolating people as the ‘other,’ but working to understand them. It means supporting programs, like World Vision’s, that help people in need where they are in Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, and Serbia. Programs that provide food, clean water, child protection, counseling, and education, bringing hope to the two million children forced from their homes who right now face a very uncertain future.
Most of all, it means viewing God’s children with the same eyes as he does. Truly living out the words of Jesus, who knows exactly what it means to be in the same situation as many refugees today:
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” Matthew 25:35 (ESV).
Thanks to open hearts, Amal has found some measure of hope. Not just in the birth of her son, but in the assistance from World Vision, where staff helped to transport her family to a hospital so they could share in the joy of her baby’s birth. She joyously showed him off for the camera, smiling and calling out “this baby traveled across the ocean!’ Like in the Bethlehem of old, the birth of a baby shining a ray of hope into the darkness and fear.
Lauren Fisher is a media relations manager for World Vision, working on international news and disasters. Lauren’s time at World Vision has taken her to humanitarian disasters around the globe. She has traveled to Niger, Senegal, Rwanda and most recently to Jordan and Lebanon to see the Syria refugee crisis firsthand.