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The Other 99%

I was recently invited as a guest speaker for a webinar with ecumenical partners, to share some information on global forced displacement and migration. This time rather than throwing out a lot of statistics and facts about why people are displaced from their homes, what happens once they are displaced, and what theoretical global solutions I think should take place to either prevent displacement or to care for those who are displaced, I paused.  I decided it was a moment for me to share stories of those I have met who have experienced forced or involuntary displacement, have embarked on dangerous and traumatizing migration journeys, and, with their permission, to share their experiences of trying to survive—if not thrive—in a world that pities them, treats them as problems or projects, and decides whether or not they deserve protection. 

After the webinar finished, I noticed that I was anxious and sad.

Inevitably, during the Q & A period at the end of the discussion, the focus became narrower, focusing on refugees and refugee resettlement. I see this a lot in my work, in part because the terms we use such as forcibly displaced, internally displaced, stateless, migrant, immigrant, asylum seeker/refugee claimant, etc. are more difficult to understand than refugee.  And because we often believe that refugee resettlement is the main solution to care for those who are displaced. Refugee resettlement is also the solution we hear the most about from a North American context, and it is a program in which many churches in Canada and the United States have participated. There is also great concern for refugee resettlement programs in both the United States and Canada in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and changing policies on refugee resettlement, including the announcement on October 1 of the Trump Administration’s decision to set the Presidential Determination for Refugee Resettlement at 15,000 for fiscal year 2021—a historically low number. After the webinar finished, I noticed that I was anxious and sad. Here’s why: in the best of times, less than 1% of refugees are resettled through formal resettlement programs in countries like Canada and the United States. What about the other 99%?

Yet my heart continues to be troubled by the other 99%.  

Please hear me out. I believe refugee resettlement programs are important. Refugees and former refugees are a blessing to their host countries, including contributing to the betterment of society in numerous ways. Spiritually, the Bible is clear that we, as Christ followers, are called to love the stranger, the foreigner, the orphan, the widow, the slave, the sojourner, and those seeking refuge. Refugee resettlement is one of the ways we can do that. We should advocate for higher numbers for refugee resettlement in the United States and Canada. We should extend the love of Christ through hospitality, philoxenia, to refugees and former refugees in our communities. 

Yet my heart continues to be troubled by the other 99%.  

Jesus loves the other 99% and calls us to love them as well. 

We, as Christ followers, need to dig deeper and listen to the ways God is calling us to love the other 99%. 

I leave you today with these questions:
  1. How is God calling you to love the other 99%? 

  2. Is there a certain part of the world that weighs heavily on your heart? A certain country or group of people? A certain topic such as religious persecution, genocide, armed conflict, natural disasters, etc. that you feel called to explore?

  3. What resources are available to you to learn more and to act?

  4. Are you being called to prayer? To advocacy? To support missionaries, churches, ecumenical global partners or non-governmental organizations who are caring for the other 99%? Are you being called to serve in one of these capacities yourself?

Photo by Mario Purisic on Unsplash

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