Resources

7 Books to Help Understand Immigration and the Global Refugee Crisis

51m5JkhX0bL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_SEEKING REFUGE
By Stephan Bauman, Mattew Soerens, and Dr. Issam Smeir
(Non-fiction)

This title is part of my holy grail resources on the Global Refugee Crisis. While filled with facts, numbers, and statistics, the authors balance this with putting faces and the humanity back into refugees by incorporating true stories throughout. The fears and myths regarding refugees are addressed as well as the Biblical mandate to welcome the refugee. A book for Christians wanting to know what is really happening and how to help.

Notable Quote: “The Bible challenges us to persevere—in welcoming refugees in our own communities but also in the larger tasks of addressing the root injustices that force them to flee”.

 

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THE MAP OF SALT AND STARS
By Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar
(Fiction)

If the beautiful cover doesn’t grab you then the braiding of two stories – one ancient and one modern-day –  will. Told from a Syrian child’s point of view, The Map of Salt and Stars outlines the struggles and hardships refugees are presently enduring, not by preaching but by showing in a compelling and enchanting way. Nour’s story stayed with me long after I put down the book.

Notable Quote: “Don’t forget,’ he says, and Abu Sayeed looks up while he translates, holding the words back a little, ‘stories ease the pain of living, not dying. People always think dying is going to hurt. But it does not. It’s living that hurts us.”

 

51xxFa3T0EL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_WELCOMING THE STRANGER (Revised Edition)
By Matthew Soerens and Jenny Yang
(Non-fiction)

A must read if you want to have an informed decision when it comes to the voting polls and to hold knowledgeable conversations on the topic of immigration in the U.S. Welcoming the Stranger provides an easily-understood history of immigration with relevant anecdotes and useful resources for individuals, churches, and small groups. A must read.

Notable Quote: “When we read the Bible as a sacred narrative of God’s interaction with humanity, we find that immigrants and refugees play many of the most important roles in the story. Throughout Scripture God has used the movement of people to accomplish his greater purposes”.

 

614ClzmOf3L._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_SEA PRAYER
by Khaled Hosseini
(Fiction, Short Story)

To commemorate the death of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, a Syrian boy who drowned while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea with his family in 2015, novelist, Khaled Hosseini writes a fictional letter from a father to his son on the eve of their journey out of Syria and across the seas. The 48-page watercolor-illustrated book has also been made into a 360 degree illustrated film, which can be seen here.

Notable Quote: “I have heard it said we are the uninvited.  We are the unwelcome.  We should take our misfortune elsewhere.  But I hear your mother’s voice, over the tide, and she whispers in my ear, ‘Oh but if they saw, my darling.  Even half of what you have.  If only they saw.  They would say kinder things, surely.'”

HONORABLE MENTIONS

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The Girl Who 
Smiled Beads
By Clementine 
Wamariya
(Biography)

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A Hope More Powerful 
Than The Sea
By Melissa Fleming
(Fiction)

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Love Undocumented 
By Sarah Quezada
(Non Fiction)

Our Story, Refugee Stories

World Refugee Day in an Age of Zero Tolerance

“Today is ‘World Refugee Day’,” I say glancing up from my phone to my husband. We are still in our pajamas this morning, bed head and all. He hands me my cup of coffee and gives a sad laugh.

I tuck my toes underneath him as he settles in next to me on the couch.  He stares ahead silently for a minute before responding simply with, “We just have to put our trust in God.”

June 20th is what the United Nations has designated as World Refugee Day. “In a world where violence forces thousands of families to flee for their lives each day, the time is now to show that the global public stands with refugees,” it reads on their website.

Funny enough, today in Turkey is also the day where all refugees in our province must report to the police station for their weekly fingerprinting. Were you aware refugees had to check-in via fingerprint every seven days? My husband’s and my week is planned around this one event. After coffee this morning, he quickly left in order to avoid the large crowds gathering at the police station.

Today is the day my mother-in-law arrived back from an out-of-town trip (planned strategically so as not to miss her fingerprinting). Before she left, it took two days and multiple trips to the police station in order for her to obtain permission to even leave the province. Did you know refugees had to get permission to leave their province? Although armed with the correct papers, she still boarded the bus with an uneasiness settling onto her shoulders.

Today especially, I am ever conscious of the weekly fingerprinting, the jumping through hoops in order to leave town, the fear of traveling outside the city in case an officer stops and demands the proof of papers and identification. Refugees who are in limbo are forced to bow to being treated almost as prisoners while they wait to move forward with their lives. 4 1/2 years my husband has had to do this. What do you think that does to someone’s self-worth and dignity?

World Refugee Day comes just over a month after one of my husband’s acquaintances tried to leave Turkey. After threats of deportation and threats over his religion, he made the dangerous decision to put his family on a boat to cross into Greece. This painful choice — that was not really a choice at all — led to the tragic death of his mother, nephews, and cousin.

“No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”
-Warson Shire

World Refugee Day comes one and half months after the U.S. enacted a zero-tolerance policy at the southern border where those who are seeking asylum are being separated from their children.

It comes at a time when politicians and leaders are using the Word of God to defend unjust, disgraceful policies.

This day comes when the Pew Research Center came out with a sobering statistic: nearly 1 out of 100 people are displaced from their homes. That is 65 million people displaced worldwide.

But with this rise in refugees and asylum seekers and an increase in people fleeing their homes from unimaginable violence, comes an uptick in keyboard warriors, people who sit in front of their laptops, coldly typing things like, “do it the legal way” and “get in line like the rest of us” and “but, but, but, it’s the law.”

A Call

For those living in America or in the comforts of a safe, stable home, to those with a job, family nearby, and a place to worship openly, to those who have no idea what is it like to raise your children while bombs are exploding in your city, or what it is like to fear your government, please listen.

Stop angrily typing for a minute and look around yourselves. Or better yet, look beyond yourselves.

Our elementary school history lessons have prepared us for a time like this. If you ever wondered what you would have done during the Holocaust, during the Japanese Internment Camps, or during the Civil Rights Movement, now is your chance. Like then, are you able to see evil as evil now? Unjust as unjust? Today will you stand on the right side of history?

An Apology

To my refugee and asylum-seeking friends, to those fleeing religious persecution, gang violence, domestic abuse, and to those only wanting a safe and peaceful life, if not for you but for your children, I am sorry.

I am sorry wealthy countries are slamming their doors shut to keep out those who were not lucky enough to be born inside the walls.

I am sorry you are judged and treated like a prisoner because of the passport you hold and the shade of your skin.

I am sorry you jump through every hoop possible, dance the dance required of you, do everything possibly right, and still, you are unable to find safety.

I am sorry Americans think it is a simple and straightforward process to flee your home and family.

“No refugee chooses to be a refugee. We do not choose to upset our lives, ripping out our hearts and souls, leaving all that we knew and loved for the unknown.”
– Hoang Chi Truong

I am sorry people have used the Lord’s name to justify the horrendous things happening.

I am sorry people have placed a policy enacted by a fallen man above your inherent worth as a child of God.

We see you.

We hear you.

We cry for you.

We want you safe.

And we want you here.

Refugee Stories

Can You Help Us?: Stories of Refugees in Turkey

This is part one 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 two here.

“He is asking you,” my translator quietly tells me as she places her hand on the arm of the sofa where I’m seated.

I look up from the coffee table. I had been examining papers laid out before me from the UN, precious papers that give evidence that this family has been accepted as refugees.

I had assumed the question was rhetorical but her emphasis on the last word told me otherwise.

“They are asking, ‘What can you do for us? Can you help us?’” she repeated, her soft Arab accent woven like silk around each word.

I placed the handful of worn papers back on the table, and my eyes went from her hand to her face and then to the eyes of a man sitting across from me. A 54-year-old man who had been a refugee for 14 years, seeking safety first in Syria, then back to Iraq when the Syrian war broke out, then to Lebanon, then back to Iraq, and now in Turkey, where he waits with his wife and teenage son. Their first appointment with the UN isn’t scheduled until 2019.

“Can you help us?”

The question hung in the air and suddenly everything felt heavy, like lead. I became painfully aware of the sound of the string of plastic prayer beads rolling around the palm of the man’s hand, the black and white static of the television in the corner, the picture of the Virgin Mary hanging above the sofa, and the fact that I was the only non-refugee in the room.

His wife comes through the doorway holding a tray of tiny teacups filled with black Turkish coffee. I quickly sip from the glass of water offered and accept the coffee, thankful that her entrance shifts the mood and the interview continues on without me having to provide an answer.

The story of this man and his wife and the trauma and loss they have experienced and are still experiencing is not an uncommon one. Most stories begin with a painful retelling of ISIS invading hometowns, stories of people fleeing with only the clothes on their backs and their children at their sides, just one hour – 60 minutes – before the invasion occurs. Fleeing at a moment’s notice, leaving behind homes, memories, and lives that they will never know or return to in the same way again. Each story stops here, in Turkey, where thousands of people’s lives hang in the balance, where every family is forced to hit the pause button and wait in agony for an unknown, unclear future. Working stops, school stops, money stops. The decision to freeze in place, unable to move forward and unable to move backward, is made for them.

The bones of each story, weighted with grief and torment, are the same, yet the details that fall between are unique.  Entering homes, sharing a cup (or two, or three, or four) of çay, sitting across from one another, laughing and crying with each other, and hearing their stories hardly leaves the listener unchanged. Each story I heard, I cherish with such respect. Each story that entered my ears lays heavily on my heart. Such courage was shown as each story was spoken out loud, as thoughts and feelings that have stayed locked inside for so long come tumbling out, like rain pouring down in torrents.

These stories are with me now as I lie in my warm bed. These stories will stay with me as I hop on a plane to Italy and Greece. These stories will stay with me as I freely move across the ocean, home to America for the summer.

“Can you help us?”

What do you say when a 60-year-old woman shows you to a bedroom in the corner of her apartment where her debilitatingly depressed brother lies in a bed, not showering, not eating, waiting to die?

What do you say when a family of seven all sleep in the living room of their tiny attic apartment and have gone three full years without being in school yet still have dreams of being doctors and engineers when they grow up?

What do you say when a woman shares that one day her husband just disappeared in Iraq and has not been seen or heard from since 2014?

What do you say when a Yazidi family with five beautiful, graceful girls have no food in their cupboards, who have crossed into Turkey on foot, escaping sex traffickers, whose father has crossed into Europe on a boat and they live in fear that their neighbors will find out who they really are?

What do you say when a man shoves a photograph of his dead brother in front of your face, his body filled with bullet holes placed there by ISIS?

What do you say when everyone in the room turns to you and asks, “can you help us?”

What do you say when you are a white girl from Midwest America who has the entire world at your fingertips, can go anywhere, be anything, yet cannot help these families?

Sometimes it is okay to be silent. There are times when words ruin the moment, a contrived response minimizing what was just shared. Sometimes there are moments that call for sitting in uncomfortable, awkward stillness, and to just grab the shaking hand across the table and pray.

That uncomfortableness, that awkwardness, that frustration of wanting to say something, to do something, anything to help – that’s what we all should be feeling when we hear stories, numbers, and statistics of these hurting souls on the news. We need to be uncomfortable. We need to fidget in our chairs. We need to feel the injustice rise up in our chests, like lava threatening to erupt. We need to do something, anything to help.

“Can you help us?”

I’m still figuring out how to answer that question. But I can listen. I can pray. I can carry these stories in my heart and share them with you. You can listen to these stories and you can pray. We can keep these stories moving and alive. We can watch the news and see hearts and souls and real human beings.

“It’s a kind of healing, to speak the hard things”, my translator told me after I assured her she only had to share with me what she wanted to share. We had just met and sat at a çay bahçe, a Turkish tea garden, discussing what tomorrow’s interviews would be like. “It’s difficult. But I think we all want our stories heard”.