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103 Million Displaced: Who Deserves Protection?

Last week the United Nations reported that the number of forcibly displaced people around the world has risen to 103 million, the largest number ever in recorded history and a number that has increased by almost 14 million in one year.

As the numbers continue to grow larger and larger, and at such a rapid pace, the discussions about how to prioritize humanitarian aid and protection for those affected increase as well. Earlier this year I wrote a blog post outlining some of the determining factors used to decide who we aid and protect…and ultimately, how we decide who is worthy of protection. I wrote another blog post lamenting how, in our haste to respond to the most recent crisis of displacement, we often abandon or ignore others who have been displaced for longer periods of time, sending them to the back of an exponentially longer line waiting for refuge.

I get it. 103 million is a large number. It feels overwhelming. Surely we can't help them all. It can also be overwhelming as we turn on our televisions or phones and see yet another report of violent conflict, persecution, drought, famine, earthquake, flooding, economic collapse, political corruption or insecurity, or the countless other factors that have led to mass displacement of people in places such as Ukraine, Afghanistan, Venezuela, DR Congo, or the re-displacement of previously displaced people in Pakistan, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Myanmar, South Sudan and beyond. 

Yet, we must guard ourselves from perpetuating the idea that God's love is reserved for those whose image resembles our own. 

Yet, we must guard ourselves from letting overwhelm lead to apathy and inaction.

I get it. Some causes of displacement we understand better than others. We understand why large numbers of people fled for their lives after the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban last year. But Venezuela? Or Haiti? Maybe what’s happening there is less clear to us, and maybe the media coverage depicting the pain and suffering of Venezuelans and Haitians is not as comprehensive or compelling.

Yet, we must guard ourselves from believing that someone's worth is limited by our human understanding of them.

I get it. Maybe we feel a deeper sense of connection with, and empathy for, Ukrainians because they look like us, or because we know someone who is Ukrainian, but we struggle to feel connected to, and have compassion for, the people of South Sudan because we don’t feel those same perceived similarities or connections.

Yet, we must guard ourselves from perpetuating the idea that God's love is reserved for those whose image resembles our own. 

Are you ready to join us in advocating for compassionate, Christ-like care for all displaced people?

I get it, and I have heard all of these things when listening to individuals or congregations who are hesitant to engage in advocating for more just and compassionate care for all displaced people.

But it’s important to realize that we make decisions about who is worthy of protection based on these priorities–and, by default or by design–who is not worthy. 

We also make decisions about whether we are going to respond to the pain and suffering of those seeking protection with empathy and compassion, or with apathy and even cruelty—both individually and nationally–as we decide who is welcomed and who is not.

We must choose wisely, as the lives of image bearers all around the world are impacted by our action…and by our inaction.

Are you ready to join us in advocating for compassionate, Christ-like care for all displaced people? Here are a few opportunities:

In the United States:
  • On October 30, NBC news reported that the Biden Administration is considering options of sending Haitian asylum seekers to a third country or detaining them once again at Guantánamo Bay, especially if the number of Haitians arriving at the U.S./Mexico border rises. On November 4, the Haitian Bridge Alliance and 288 immigration, human rights, civil rights, and faith based organizations signed onto a letter highlighting a history of racism and human rights abuses against Haitian seeking protection, including previous mass detention of Haitians at Guantánamo Bay. You can join them by contacting the Biden Administration and advocating for the five action steps proposed in the letter to protect the lives and liberties of Haitians seeking protection.

  • Urge Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, which will provide a path to lawful permanent residence in the U.S. for thousands of Afghans who cannot return to Afghanistan here

  • Urge Congress and the Biden Administration to stop the use of Title 42 and the expulsion of predominantly Black and Brown asylum seekers here.  

In Canada:
  • Urge the Canadian government to strengthen its commitment to welcoming people who are seeking refuge, to ensure equity in access to refugee protection, and to decrease wait times in resettlement through private sponsorship here.

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