The Defiant Act of Putting Down Roots

As I sit here writing this, I’m on our balcony off the kitchen. The school kids are breaking for recess and kicking around a soccer ball, their shrieks coming from the middle school across the street. I have laundry pinned to the line – linens and pillowcases. The October noontime sun is strong enough to dry them quickly. The fall weather has come to Turkey but the concrete sides of our apartment building still radiate the heat of the day.

This month marks five years of living in Turkey.

In 2014, I boarded a plane with a one-way ticket in hand, leaving behind the flat prairie lands of the upper Midwest, my family, friends, and most of what was familiar to me, and traded it for dry arid weather, a new community, and something called fairy chimneys (yeah, I didn’t know what they were either). What was supposed to be a one-year teaching gig in a foreign country turned into five.

~~~

It’s weird and insignificant but one of the things I get joy from is looking at the weekly ad circulars with my husband. My mom sends them to us tucked into her care packages. It’s a silly ritual the two of us do together because it reminds us of home. Flipping through the Target and Kohls ads that have traveled across the ocean is a glimpse into life beyond Turkey. It means looking forward. Planning. We do the same with homes on Zillow and things on Facebook Marketplace. It shows that one day we might build a life outside of Turkey.

To us, it’s a strange little symbol of hope.

But what if we cannot, at least for the foreseeable future, make a home in the US? What if, due to politics and bans and greed and misplaced fear, we cannot leave where we are? How do we put down roots when we don’t want to?

Making a home amid waiting is tricky.

Look at this way: If I invited you to sit in a chair pulled up to a desk for the next six hours, what would you do? You have six hours so you’d probably open your laptop and get some work done. Maybe answer some emails. Watch a movie, work on a hobby, read a book. You’d be productive.

What if instead, I invited you to sit in a chair pulled up to a desk for the next five minutes? What would you do? It’s just five minutes so you’d probably stare at the wall. Drum your fingers on the desk. Gaze out the window. You’d wait.

Making a home in the midst of waiting is tricky.

Then what if, after the five minutes were up, I came back and said, “Sorry, sorry. Please sit for just five more minutes.” You’d wait again. What’re another five minutes? And again. And again. Until those five minutes have turned into six wasted hours.

It’s hard to make a home when you’re in prolonged waiting. It makes the heart sick.

~~~

Marrying someone who has refugee status meant finding myself thrown amid bureaucratic limbo. It meant being at the bend and will of politicians who see others like pieces on a chessboard – to be moved, jumped over, kicked off – for their own advantage. The powers-that-be forced us to hit the pause button on life, to waste those five minutes over and over again, to live indefinitely in the temporary.

We don’t feel like we have much control over anything.

But what if there was one thing we could control? What if we could shift our mindset from a temporary-bags packed-we’ll be gone in five minutes- way of thinking to something more settled? Solid? Home?

Marrying someone who has refugee status meant finding myself thrown in the midst of bureaucratic limbo. It meant being at the bend and will of politicians who see others like pieces on a chessboard – to be moved, jumped over, kicked off – for their own advantage.

What if deciding to make a home right where we are was the ultimate act of defiance against the forces keeping us in the temporary? What if deciding to put down our suitcases and put down roots right where we are meant we have some semblance of control over our lives?

There’s a certain freedom in realizing we have a choice to make our current place home.  It won’t be forever, but for now. My arms are big enough to hold on tightly to our dream of one day moving to the US in one arm and cultivate rootedness in the other – even if it’s temporary.

Are you in a place where you are reluctant to put down roots?

Trying to make a home while living in a state of limbo is a messy thing. But we can thrive, strive, and take our unwanted situation and build on it. We can take the dirt surrounding us and press our roots down deep, just a little. And maybe something wonderful will grow.

~~~

Home for me is pretty ambiguous these days. It’s transient. But being in this state of prolonged uncertainty for so many years has widened my definition:

Home is adding one more book to an already packed bookshelf.
Home is nailing picture frames to the wall (when we’re sure the landlords are gone).
Home is watching the potted plants grow and bloom.
Home is the two little painted wooden houses dangling on a string in the kitchen.
Home is a soft place to land. Safe, secure, welcoming.
Home is temporary; it changes, and flows, and exists through everything.

How would you define “home”?

Putting down roots in a place I don’t want to is sanctifying me, preparing me, and cultivating fruit in me. God’s not wasting this time. I don’t want to either.

I thought about trying to tie this all back to something about how, for believers, the earth is not our home because our eternal home is in heaven *insert cute little bible verse here*. But honestly? That’s not where my heart is at the moment. It isn’t easy to decide to let the roots start growing. It isn’t easy to juggle both the present and the future.

I still have that itch to get out of here. Believe me, Turkey is not home. But if I don’t embrace where I am right now and trust God is carefully holding my dreams, I’ll be terribly itchy.

So how do I embrace a life that is forcing us to be stationary? Maybe it has to do with the little things, like putting up photos, organizing knickknacks, and planting gardens. I don’t really know for sure yet. But I know for the health of my soul and sanity I need to keep pressing deep into the dirt and letting the roots grow, just a little, just for a while. I’m sure we will figure it out…right after we check Zillow one more time.

 

They Should Come the Legal Way

It’s frustrating to see the dismantling of the US’s refugee program, to see this administration gradually take it apart, piece by piece, quietly in the backdrop of other pressing matters.

While the US president boasts of new religious freedom initiatives, the travel ban is still in place, effectively and indefinitely preventing seven countries from entering the US, calling for a “total and complete shutdown” of billions of people. It’s been like this for two and a half years. The number of refugees being admitted into the US this next year is predicted to be set at zero, which will hurt the most at-risk persecuted Christians.

Piece by piece. Gradually. Quietly.

What has been the most frustrating is American Evangelicals’ response to the sojourner, the stranger, the refugee: “Well, they should come the legal way.”

They should come the legal way.

A rich reply coming from people living in a prosperous country, in the comforts of a saturated society, in the warmth of a stable home, behind a laptop, holding a microphone, in front of a podium, sitting in the White House.

They should come the legal way.

This response is from people who hold no concept of what it’s like to be a threat to your government because of your beliefs, because of your mere existence. No idea of what it feels like to never return to your home for fear of being tortured, persecuted, arrested, raped, or killed.

This response is from people who don’t know what it’s like to walk down the streets of their hometown, past their old elementary school, past the neighborhood market and see bodies hanging from cranes. They do not know what it’s like to clutch their toddler and lay flat in a ditch, eyes squeezed shut, comforting the tiny whimpers, praying for the air-raid sirens to stop. They don’t know what it’s like to meet with other Christians in secret, always changing locations so as not to draw any attention, removing SIM cards from phones, and wrapping bibles in newspaper.

We like to think the legal way to immigrate to the US is to fill out some paperwork, get in line, and wait patiently for your name to be called. That’s reasonable enough, right? To get in line like the rest of them?

And yet the legal way means running away from the jaws of a chomping shark that used to be your home. It means facing concrete barriers you have no choice but to try to climb over. It means carrying the trauma of persecution and years of oppression into interview after interview. Presenting your case in front of callous officers, reliving the nightmare each time, trying to convince them your story is true when their only goal is to look for any inconsistency, any excuse to deny you.

The legal way involves paperwork and a line but there is no line. It’s broken and stopped and nobody can move. When your home is the chomping jaws of a bloodthirsty shark, you cannot wait any longer because waiting breeds madness. 

With this administration, the legal way involves more and more concrete barriers, more and more hoops to jump through. But what all it really boils down to is that the refugee’s skin is a few shades too dark and he carries a passport with the wrong birth country.

When your home is the chomping jaws of a bloodthirsty shark, you cannot wait any longer because waiting breeds madness.

They should come the legal way. They should know English and have professional skills but not too many skills because we don’t want them taking our jobs. They should come from really traumatic situations but not too traumatic because we want them to be able to assimilate and function in our society. But God forbid they arrive with nothing and have to rely on the government and taxpayers’ dollars. They should be able to stand on their own two feet. They should make something of themselves. They should overcome all odds but they better not complain about this country because they should be grateful they’re here. They should…They should…They should.

Our brains like to simplify the things we don’t understand, to reduce a truly complicated topic down to the bare bones. And when life happens outside of our own world, it’s easy for us to keep everything at an arm’s distance. Our minds don’t have the grid to understand suffering and trauma when we’ve lived and breathed in a country soaked in convenience and comfort. But we need to try to understand.

We have a president who boasts of his strong Christian faith – who reads the Bible more than anybody (but nevermind he is thrice-married and doesn’t need to ask for forgiveness) – and yet he is doing all he can to stop refugees from entering the US. We have a president who perpetuates fear, using erroneous words like “infest”, “flood”, “hoards”, and “illegals” to describe refugees and asylum seekers. We have an administration that, in words, identifies as pro-life, but in action does everything it can to dehumanize, criminalize, and erase the oppressed.

Our minds don’t have the grid to understand suffering and trauma when we’ve lived and breathed in a country soaked in convenience and comfort. But we need to try to understand.

The United States is a country of plenty. We have protection and stability and safety and opportunities. We have the freedom to practice our faith or no faith. We have the freedom to speak out against the problems in our country, to stand up against injustices and violations.

We can also be a nation of refuge and humanity. We can support politicians who see the value and inherent worth in immigrants and take steps to tear down walls and help to streamline the immigration process so those fleeing their homes can come legally.

The next time we come across news articles about the plight of refugees and asylum seekers may we never respond with “Well, they should come the legal way” because they are trying to. But instead, to stop and think and respond biblically, extending compassion to our fellow image-bearers of God.

We can be pro-security and pro-compassion. They can go hand-in-hand because one of the holiest of sacraments is welcoming the stranger.

They should come the legal way? That’s a nice thought, but that’s not the point.

The Unanswered Question

“How long more?”

My husband asks this question enough times for me to know he’s not wondering how long our walk will take to get to the river. We’ve done it a million times. He’s asking me how much longer we’ll be staying here in Turkey, how much longer we have to wait for our lives to move forward, and how much longer we have to live at the mercy of politicians’ decisions.

“Merhaba. Merhaba.” We murmur a Turkish greeting as we pass by a small boy kicking a beat-up soccer ball in his front yard, then to a woman peering around the corner, pinning white shirts to a line. She nods her head at us.

How long more?

Sometimes he asks this question pointedly, squaring his face with mine and expecting a specific answer like I hold some magic key to that knowledge. This time though, his question is more like a statement, a phrase that is ever pulsing in his veins. Three words syncopated with our footsteps on the street, coming up and out from within him, like a great, heaving sigh.

I still don’t respond to him as we continue walking down the dusty cobblestone street, fruit trees bursting over us, the river sparkling up ahead, a pregnant cat sauntering nearby. But I lean in close, matching my walking pace to his, and squeeze his hand. I may not have an answer but I hope this gesture conveys my solidarity and dissolves the not-question still hanging in the air. Hey, whatever’s going to happen, we’re in this together.

Closer to the river now we see my mother-in-law at the water’s edge, throwing day-old scraps of bread to the ducks. She waves us over and points into the water. “Babies!” she exclaims. We look over the fence at four fuzzy ducklings. Watching her unwrap more bread from her purse — an extra loaf she bought at the bakery just for the ducks — I’m struck by how alone she is here. My husband, too. Strangers in this country, fleeing their homes because of the God they believe in. They didn’t choose to be here. And they can’t choose to leave. They ache over the burden of carrying a title they did not want: refugee.

It’s hard to describe to other people all the subtleties of how our lives are impacted by the travel ban, continually phrasing and rephrasing it. I tend to craft my words carefully, like how my mother-in-law chooses her fruit and vegetables at the Friday bazaar. Slowly. Picking up each one, examining it, smelling it, pressing it, before the finality of placing it gingerly into her sack or back on the stand.

It’s difficult to explain what we’re going through when well-meaning people touch us on the arm in the middle of the coffee line at church. “How’s your heart?” they say gently with a tilt of their head, twenty other people around us, all stretching out their hands to grab a sugar packet or spoon.

We don’t want to be here, is what I want to tell them. This waiting on the edge of our seats is making our hearts sick. Do they know of the arbitrary dates we give ourselves to be in the US? Maybe by his birthday, this summer, her wedding in the fall. And as each date passes we feel the dragging drop of disappointment.

How long more?

He cannot even leave the province without a permission slip, quickly constricting his world to a 90-mile radius. I want to tell them of his interactions with condescending police officers, blase and vague in their answers. Each time the phone rings our bodies stiffen and we stop what we’re doing. Maybe this is the call. The one we’ve been waiting for.

How long more?

There’s the suffocating pressure coming from all sides, knowing he cannot go back, knowing this present country is growing tired of the strain of the millions here just like him. And the country he dreams of going to is so quick to turn its back, put up a wall, and slap a derogative label over people with his shade of skin.

How long more?

With the buzz of post-church conversation all around us, it’s exhausting to try to craft my thoughts before the attention quickly shifts to something else. So, like the precious fruit, I put it back on the stand and instead deliver a blithe reply.

I see the question resurface in his eyes as he stares out at the river. I help my mother-in-law unpack the steaming lunch she brought. We set out the fresh village bread and a tea thermos — a staple at any Persian picnic — and bow our heads in prayer. She prays in Farsi for God to have mercy on us, to hear us, to help us to trust him. I look up at the two heads bent.

God, how long more?

Sleeping Churches in the Midst of Fleeing Homes

Arifa unlatches the rusted metal door and collapses the umbrella she used to protect her olive skin from the arid sun. She beckons us inside. With bags and pillows hoisted over our shoulders, we squeeze sideways up the building’s stairs leading to her family’s apartment. 

I had spent the last few days with a group of university students making house visits to refugee families in Turkey where we conducted audio interviews to share with churches back in the U.S. Arifa served as our translator as we listened to several harrowing stories of refugees who had to flee their homes due to death threats from ISIS. After a long day of translating and interviewing and, because we were from out of town, Arifa invited us to stay the night with her family. 

Over her shoulder, she explains why they decided on this apartment and not one closer to downtown, where refugees usually live. Their place is farther out of the city and she needs to take the bus to the police station for her weekly fingerprinted check-ins, a requirement for all refugees in Turkey. This is not a short commute and she must structure her week around it. But the rent in this area is cheap. Markets are nearby. And it’s quiet. She’s thankful for a park across the street so her children can move and play during the long days at home. 

Arifa’s children are not in school because they don’t know the local language, but also because Arifa doesn’t want to expose her children to the Islamic teachings prevalent in the local schools. There’s also fees, transportation logistics, and the inevitable bullying that comes along with being a foreigner. 

In a break of polite small talk, Arifa confides to us she’s concerned about her youngest. “She’s getting chubby,” she says bluntly. We laugh internally at this, knowing that addressing weight is not taboo in Iraqi culture. 

Sounds and smells float from each door as we move down the dimly lit hallway – a Turkish television blaring today’s news, babies crying, dishes clanking, the arrhythmic beat of a drum spilling out from a radio.

She raps softly on a door and we’re immediately greeted by a girl.

“I’m Nadia!” she announces before we’ve had the chance to step through the doorway. A smile widens across her face and she hops up and down, the anticipation of three overnight guests bubbling from inside her.

“Nadia’s English is perfect,” Arifa says to us over the bobbing head of her daughter. She places her keys on a hook near the door and umbrella behind a cabinet. “She’s learned it all from YouTube.”

A man walks in from the kitchen with a small child clinging desperately to the back of his leg. Arifa introduces us to her husband, Bashar, and youngest daughter, Noor, her round brown eyes peering up at us from her father’s pant leg. Arifa motions down the hallway telling us to make ourselves at home while she checks on dinner, the smell of cumin and cardamom floating from the stove. We carry our bags to the bedroom while her daughters scurry ahead of us.

“We all sleep in here together,” Nadia announces as she plops down on one of the two mattresses laying on the cool tile floor, her long black hair tied into two braids. Despite living in a two bedroom apartment, Arifa sleeps with her husband and daughters in one room. It’s better for them all to sleep together after the trauma of fleeing their home in Iraq.  Sleeping with her babies close provides a sense of security and safety in a world where there is none. I’m starkly aware that this is a measure of fear I’ll never know. 

“But tonight,” Nadia announces, “we will sleep in the living room and you three sleep in here––you are our guests!”

We exchange startled looks, hesitant of whether or not to object to the sleeping arrangements, unsure of the nuances of Middle Eastern hosting. Feeling foolish that I had assumed this was the guestroom and not their entire family’s bedroom, I hastily pick up my backpack, ready to apologize for my wrong assumption. I don’t have time to protest as Nadia pulls a laptop onto her legs and begins blasting music videos. Noor, still silent, shoves pictures she has colored in my face.

“Ask her for a back scratch,” Nadia suggests of her younger sister. “She gives great ones.”

***

Post-dinner, we lounge with Arifa’s family, the table still pulled up to the couch, bowls of fresh dates set before us and the television on low in the background. Noor’s backscratches were evidently all that was needed to break the ice and, squished next to me, she loudly demonstrates counting from zero to ten in English and Arabic. 

Arifa passes around tiny tulip-shaped cups of tea and a sugar bowl and begins to tell how and why her family fled to Turkey.

They lived in Northern Iraq in an area called the Ninevah Plain and were fortunate to be close to both their aging parents. They were Chaldean Christians and spoke a dialect of Aramaic, close to the same language Jesus spoke. 

In 2014, Arifa and her family made the difficult decision to flee. Christians in this area had long been targets of persecution, government-sanctioned intimidation, and now threats from terrorist groups, which left many feeling afraid for their and their family’s lives. 

With only a few hours ahead of ISIS’s invasion, Arifa and Bashar packed only the essentials into suitcases: necessary paperwork, clothes, and family heirlooms, only taking the most valuable possessions. As she lists off the things she chose to pack, my eyes drift to the framed picture of Christ on the cross fixed to the wall above their television. 

“There is nothing left for us in Iraq,” Bashar interjects. “The United Nations is––,” he forcefully brushes his hands together then throws them in the air to express his disgust with the lack of help. Arifa and Bashar speak of the frustrations of not being able to resettle their family in a safe and stable place, of living in limbo, of not knowing what tomorrow will hold.

Arifa shows photos she received from a relative still living in Iraq. As she swipes her finger across the phone screen, updated pictures of what was once their home flashed before us. Kitchen cabinets were ripped from the walls. The ISIS symbol was spray-painted over countertops. Her daughters’ toys were scattered on the floor. A rumpled, well-loved doll lay discarded in the corner. Sofas were overturned and carpets ripped to shreds. More graffiti desecrated every surface. The violent photos reveal that their home was no longer a home but a symbol of many who have nothing left to go back to. What once held memories had been stolen and torn into pieces.

“Why are the American churches sleeping?” Bashar punctuates the air in the living room. We have no answer. We sympathetically shrug our shoulders and murmur our apologies, as if saying, “I’m sorry” for an entire nation and its politicians makes up for it. Christian brothers and sisters are being targeted, persecuted, and fleeing their homeland, yet the American Church is sleeping. 

He sighs, looking over at his daughters playing quietly on the sofa, shuffling coloring pages and crayons between them. Leaning back against the armchair, with a tea glass in his hand, he sighs, “We cannot go back home and nobody else wants us.”

***

It’s summer 2018 and Arifia’s family will leave in the next month to Canada once their plane tickets are issued. She’s overjoyed, understandably. They can begin to look forward to a new life where they no longer look over their shoulder, where they no longer sleep on the same mattress or live life with uncertainty and fear. 

I’m married now. My husband is a refugee and suddenly the stories I had heard before now hit a lot closer to home. We have been waiting since our wedding in 2017 for the United States to open their doors. Arifa’s family and countless other Iraqi refugees were able to move to Canada in 2018. Knowing the importance of immigration, Canada was the leading host country of formally resettled refugees that year.

I think back to the question Arifa’s husband had asked three years ago: “Why are the American churches sleeping?”

We live in a time where 37,000 people are forced to flee their home every day. As of June 2019, there are 25.9 million refugees in the world –– the highest ever recorded. These numbers show no signs of stopping.

Then why are American Christians sleeping? Are we so saturated in entertainment, in misplaced outrage, in bogus persecution that we cannot look up for a minute to see the suffering going on around us? Are we so focused on the semantics and legalities that we justify away the atrocities with a shrug of a shoulder? Is the “not my problem” attitude one we really want to take on?

In an op-ed to USA Today, Dr. David Curry, CEO and President of Open Doors USA, writes on the detachment we feel when it comes to the Global Church. He describes this indifference as “whistling through the graveyard.” Are we so blinded by our own lives and comforts that we cannot see the death and destruction of our brothers and sisters?

Curry writes, “I envision a world where American Christians remember persecuted Christians in hostile regions in every church, every Sunday. Through these sorts of efforts, I have hope that an awakening is possible.”

The Church is global. We must remember this.

Remember the poor. Visit the prisoner. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Welcome the stranger. Deliver the oppressed. Serve the least. And rise for the marginalized (no matter their country of origin. No matter if they have the right papers).

This is where the Shepherd is. Are we listening or are we sleeping?

if-your-response-is-the-parents-should-not-have-brought-34470337.png

This is part four of a series titled “Stories of Refugees in Turkey”, dedicated to sharing the stories of refugees with hopes of giving readers a look past numbers and statistics into the dreams and lives of real people. Read part onepart two, and part three. (All names have been changed.)

Trump’s Other Wall | Two Years After the Travel Ban

“How have you been sleeping?” we ask new mom, Maryam* as she beckons us into the back bedroom. Her in-laws, visiting from Iran, are sitting in the living room with Maryam’s husband. Their 3-year-old son, Ahmad (who happens to know perfect English) is playing on the floor with an assortment of plastic animal figurines. The low hum from the T.V. plays traditional Persian music.

“Fine, fine”, she says, a surprisingly positive response coming from someone who has just given birth. We tiptoe to a bedside bassinet and peek in over the blankets to see her son, Yosef, sleeping peacefully. In hushed voices, we coo over the sweet newborn.

Two weeks earlier at a local hospital here in Turkey, Yosef was born with a cleft palate. Unable to be properly breastfed, he needs a specialized bottle and specific formula to receive the nutrients he needs to thrive.

Returning back to the living room and our half-finished cups of tea, the conversation has now turned to the inevitable surgery Yosef will have to undergo and the logistics of lining up transportation to get the hospital, a translator who speaks Turkish and Farsi, taking time off of work, and payment.

They then told us of Maryan’s brother-in-law, living and working in Seattle who has been working tirelessly to reunite his family. Exasperated, Maryam’s husband leans forward and asks, “Isn’t there something you can do to get us to the U.S.?”


With an uptick in oppression towards religious and ethnic minorities, Reza fled Iran with his wife and children to Turkey where they applied and were accepted as refugees.

Unable to work legally in Turkey, Reza’s family scraped by on unstable, under-the-table work in construction and hairdressing, working long hours with unfair wages while they waited for their immigration processes to move forward.

Reza’s process was an urgent one, with a blood vessel near his heart threatening to burst. He was promised a life-saving operation by doctors once he arrived in the United States.

After years of extensive interviews, submitting background checks, job records, and undergoing medical examinations, Reza’s family was finally able to go to the U.S. Ecstatic and with plane tickets in hand, they sold all their belongings and packed what they could into suitcases, dreaming of what life would be like once out of Turkey.

But then a new president was elected in the U.S. and their flight was canceled. 

Then rescheduled.

Then canceled.

And rescheduled and canceled again.

After 15 months of being at the mercy of out-of-touch politicians, and feeling like pawns on a board game, Reza collapsed on his apartment balcony here in Turkey. His blood vessel had finally burst. He died of a heart attack at age 54, leaving behind his wife and two sons.


As America looks to the south of the border and to the building of the wall, there is still another invisible wall that has been in place since the beginning of 2017. 

Two years ago today Trump unveiled a travel ban that would bar people from seven countries from coming into the United States for 90 days, then 120 days, and now indefinitely.

It’s where my family and I find ourselves today. Spread out across several countries, divided, and with no end in sight.

Two years ago today as my then fiance and I sat in a coffee shop dreaming of our wedding and our life in America, we first read the headlines of the travel ban, which would drastically change the course of our lives. We glued ourselves to the screen, watching news clips of the mass chaos this order unlocked.

It was a “better safe than sorry” policy carelessly put into place and came with an enormous human cost. People are separated from loved ones, spouses, fiances, sons, daughters, and parents. They are divided – dying, even – while stuck in bureaucratic limbo. 

My sister cannot make plans to marry her fiance, even though he is a citizen of a European country. They are stopped only because of the place of birth listed on his passport.

My mother-in-law is separated from her two sons, unable to visit them. She has missed weddings and births as she waits in limbo.

My husband cannot think about or plan for the future. He is told by immigration officials to “wait, just wait”. And so he does for two years and counting.


And now America looks from the southern border to the east coast as all eyes are on the state of New York, which passed a law permitting late-term abortions.

As I wade through all of the different discussions happening, feeling heartbroken and heavy, confused at what is factual, angry at what is celebrated as an expansion of rights, I cannot help but palpably feel the disconnect of the Church.

Oh Church, why are we so quick to slap a “pro-life” frame across our profile picture when just last week we were sharing memes and links that personify immigrants as wild animals, Middle Easterners as terrorists, and the poor as lazy – using language that erases the humanity, the life, of those who are vulnerable?

It is disconcerting to see the Chruch applauding President Trump’s anti-abortion statement when he demeans the lives of immigrants and bans millions of people from entering the country solely because of the passport they carry and the color of their skin.

Why do we find it easier to be silent on most human rights issues except for this one?

We cannot let abortion become a standalone issue that disconnects us from so many other human rights issues.

The travel ban is a pro-life issue. 

I pray that, far beyond defining ourselves as “pro-life”, we live out Christ’s heart: aligning ourselves with the oppressed and the vulnerable, loving our neighbors (not just those who have the same citizenship as us), caring for the poor, having compassion for refugees, seeing the humanity in immigrants, and working to reunite families.

A travel ban that cannot tell the difference between a terrorist and a victim is heartless, anti-family, and anti-life. We cannot support it.

While it seems like every day there is something new to be (oftentimes, rightly) outraged over, please remember that there are millions of people still greatly affected by this ban. 

Each day, week, month, year that goes by where we do not talk about the injustice of the travel ban, is another day that it is a victory for those who support it.

The travel ban is affecting real, innocent people. 

It is time to end the cruelty of the separation of families and loved ones. It is time to support all life.

Two years is too long.

*All names have been changed.