How do we respond to the Syrian refugee crisis from Seattle?
When heartbreaking pictures and video from halfway around the world begin to appear on the news, in the papers, and even on our Facebook feeds it is hard not to feel a range of emotions. Seeing the haunting images and hearing the stories of the families connected to them often brings emotions of grief, sadness, and even anger. After these emotions often come questions: What can I do? Where do I even start? This problem seems so big…
Within the last couple weeks, we’ve started talking about this as a DCC family, educating ourselves and considering how we can, by God’s grace, respond to this enormous crisis in meaningful ways that glorify Jesus. Let’s dig a little deeper into how we here in Seattle can come alongside refugees both across the globe and right here in our city by Learning, Responding, and Welcoming.
The 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention defined a refugee as a person who crosses an international border fleeing persecution because of their religion, race, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
The Syrian Civil War has been going on for four and a half years. It began with the uprisings and protests of the Arab Spring, and escalated into war between President Bashar al-Assad’s government and multiple rebel groups. ISIS has taken advantage of the chaotic situation to invade and take control of large parts of Syria. The violence has been absolutely devastating for civilians. According to the UNHCR’s latest figures, 7.6 million Syrians are displaced within Syria, and 3.8 million have sought refuge in other countries. After four years of violence, what’s causing the ballooning of the refugee crisis right now? Many Syrians have given up hope that they can outlast the devastation. The breakdown of hope creates a tipping point where people finally make the choice that they must walk away from their homes, their communities, and everything they have ever known if they are to save their lives and their children’s lives. This video by statistician Hans Rosling breaks down where Syrians have fled to as of this summer.
Due to the long vetting process that includes medical checks, several interviews, and intensive background checks, only about 1,500 Syrians have been resettled into the United States so far. I (Megan) work at World Relief Seattle, which is a Christian organization that works to welcome and support refugees who are rebuilding their lives in the Seattle area and connect them to the church and the community. Our office has just been notified that we will receive our first Syrian case this week, and we are preparing for them to come, but are also continually resettling refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and other countries in turmoil.
Our team at World Relief Seattle has been welcoming and resettling refugees in the Seattle area since 1979. Our experience over those years has taught us that we are not meant to do this alone and so we ask local churches and the whole community to partner with us in the work of welcoming and empowering and loving refugees who are arriving in our city weekly.
When we begin to grasp the magnitude and heartbreak of this crisis, we ask, “But what can we do?” The answer is, “Much.”
Pray – This crisis is big, but we worship a big God. We must cry out to Him to do what only He can do. Let’s pray:
- that our mighty and loving Prince of Peace, Jesus, would bring His kingdom in Syria and the other major refugee-creating countries through the Gospel and that it would result in shalom in those countries between people and God, and between people and one another.
- for Christians in Syria, that in the midst of the chaos they would be able to plant and water seeds for the Gospel.
- that our loving Father God would protect those on dangerous journeys, and that they would be rescued and welcomed.
- that God would forgive us for how we, as humans, hurt one another, and that He would tear down the dividing walls of hostility between us.
- that Jesus would help us, as His image-bearers, be those who rescue and welcome and love out of His abundance; that God will continue to break our hearts for what breaks His heart, and that our primary reaction to refugees would always be love and not fear.
Advocate – The President and Congress are considering right now how many refugees we will allow into the U.S. next year. Call your senator and your Congressional representatives to tell them that we want to be a country that welcomes refugees and that you are in support of Syrian resettlement in the U.S. You can also sign the White House petition for the U.S. to resettle more Syrian refugees.
Share – We can share out of what God has richly given us. We can share our money with organizations who are on the ground working really hard with the Syrian and Mediterranean refugee crisis and need our support, such as World Relief, World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, and Doctors Without Borders, to name a few. Our World Relief teams in Northern Iraq, Jordan, and soon Turkey are using the funds they are given to provide urgent supplies, trauma therapy, and child-friendly spaces for refugees arriving in mass numbers in those countries. We can also share tangibly with those who are coming to live right here in our own city, as you will see below.
Here in the U.S., World Relief and other refugee resettlement agencies work with local churches and the community to welcome tens of thousands of refugees every year. You can come alongside new refugee families in the Seattle area by:
- hosting families for 1-2 weeks until they are able to transition into an apartment.
- renting directly to refugee individuals or families in need of safe, affordable places to live.
- donating furniture or household items to furnish apartments for refugee families.
- using your networks to connect refugee men and women of all different backgrounds and skills to their first job opportunities in the U.S.
- practicing English and building relationships with refugees students in ESL classes
- being a friend. Our goal at World Relief is to match every family with an American volunteer who will commit to just being their friend for at least their first six months in the country.
What if every single refugee who comes to rebuild their life in the Seattle area
had a Jesus-follower as their first friend in the U.S.?
There will be a training for volunteers who wish to come alongside new refugee families in partnership with World Relief on Sunday, October 18th from 1:30-4:00 pm at Quest Church – 1401 NW Leary Way, Seattle, WA 98107. If you want to come, please RSVP to Scott at by October 15th. You can email him for more information or check out the Facebook event.
I love you, DCC family, and am happy to help you in any way I can as you consider how God might be inviting you to join His work of loving and welcoming refugee families for His glory.
“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (which is done in the body by human hands) – remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” Ephesians 2:11-18
By Megan Kennedy (DCC member and World Relief ESL Program Coordinator) with help from Scott Ellis (World Relief Volunteer Coordinator)