four ways to *actually* help refugees (because a Facebook "like" is not enough)
This past Saturday, SNL featured a brilliant skit with Louis C.K. in which a man named Scott is sitting on his couch as the news stories about refugees, racism and threats to the environment play on his TV. His response to each story is to repost an article about it on Facebook. The chorus sings,
He couldn't sit by and do nothing
He had to act before it was too late
He shared an article on Facebook
And then everything changed...
THANK YOU, SCOTT
The satirical song highlights what many of us mistakenly believe: if we feel a strong emotion to a news story, or if we retweet or repost or share or like an article, we have successfully contributed to a solution to that problem.
But that's simply not true. Having a strong emotion, or interacting with something on social media, is not an effective or adequate response. Yes, it's great to raise awareness about issues and problems. Yes, it's great to start (hopefully civil) dialogues on social media about how we should respond to crises here and around the world. But having an opinion about something isn't enough to change it.
Last week, I wrote a post about Christians' response to the crisis in Syria called On Earth As It Is In Heaven: Why Jesus Didn't Call His Followers To Be Safe. It generated a lot of interest, a lot of comments, a lot of shares and a lot of likes.
In the post, I concluded, "When we’re talking about refugees, we’re not talking about politics or legalities or policies. We’re talking about people who are desperate, people who are dying. And loving them with the love of God, seeing them through the compassion of God, means that we do everything we possibly can — risking our personal safety, leveraging our treasured assets, spending every ounce of our energy — to save their lives."
Any time I write, I feel like I'm speaking to myself as much as anyone. So over the weekend, I did some soul-searching, asking myself what it means for me -- and others -- to actually do something about it. To really risk our safety, leverage our assets and spend our energy to love "the least of these," as Jesus said.
If your heart has been broken by the refugee crisis, if your soul has been stirred to follow Jesus and care for these people specifically, if you've liked or shared articles on social media and are ready to do something tangibly about the problem, here are a few suggestions.
If everyone who took the time to read, like, share, or comment on the blog post last week did any (or all!) of these things, think about the difference we could make!
FOUR WAYS TO RESPOND TO THE REFUGEE CRISIS
CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE / SENATOR AT THEIR DISTRICT (NOT D.C.) OFFICE
Emily Ellsworth, who used to work for state representatives in Utah, shared this advice:
"First, tweeting or writing on Facebook is largely ineffective. I never looked at those comments except to remove the harassing ones. Second, writing a letter to the district office (state) is better than sending an email or writing a letter to DC. But, the most effective thing is to actually call them on the phone. At their district (state) office. They have to talk to you there....Phone calls! That was a thing that shook up our office from time... If we started getting a pattern of calls, I called up our DC office and asked if they were getting the same calls and we talked."
To locate the name of your representative, click here and enter your zip code. Then go to their website, which is where their district office phone number is usually listed.
To locate the names of your senators, click here and select your state. Again, go to their website and call the number listed for their district office.
Most of us won't be going to the Middle East or eastern Africa or Yemen any time soon (or ever!) But we can financially support the organizations who are on the ground, and we can enable them to provide life-saving crisis interventions like shelter, food, and medical care.
One of the leading organizations that's doing amazing work in Syria as we speak is called the Preemptive Love Coalition. You can read more about them and donate here.
Also, you can visit Charity Navigator, an independent organization that vets non-profits and gives them a one - to - four star rating based on how well they're run, and how effectively (and transparently) they use the funds they're given. Here's a link to non-profits that are intervening in the Syrian crisis.
TIME AND ENERGY
Most likely, in your community, there's a refugee resettlement organization in your city (or State). One of the leading organizations is called the International Rescue Committee. If you go here, you can click on a dot on the map and find the site nearest you, and contact them to find out how to volunteer.
Many churches and other organizations are also involved in resettlement efforts. You can ask your pastor -- or go online -- to find out what opportunities are available in your community.
Also, especially if you live in a community with a large population of refugees, don't underestimate the power of simply living in your community with open eyes and an open heart. I met the Somali refugee family I ended up writing about simply because I offered to hold a toddler on the train who was tired and needed a place to sleep.
As I wrote over the weekend, we must not lose hope. We must not despair. We must continue to to have Hope, because our world is not a closed system. God continues to infuse our world with hope, and Divine Love seeps through the cracks in our broken world. Let's continue to pray together for peace, for provision. Let's continue to petition and plead for, "On earth as it is in heaven....where there is no more pain or death or crying, and every tear is wiped away."