By Kevin McKay
The image of young Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body washing up on the shore is the result of inaction. This tragic story has come to symbolize the ‘Syrian refugee crisis’ however it provides Christians with two incredibly profound opportunities in the face of one of the biggest mass displacements of people in history.
The first opportunity is to help our brothers and sisters in need and demonstrate God’s love in us. This can be accomplished in our own neighbourhood, cities and within Canada as well as in Syria and elsewhere but God commands Christians to demonstrate His love sacrificially. God’s love is not meant to be passive, it is not to be offered with conditions, and it is not confined by borders, but rather it’s meant to be freely dispensed through action.
1 John 3:16-18: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
Therefore, the answer to the immediate refugee crisis is simple. Christians should move swiftly to assist the millions of people who are brutally trapped in transition in practical ways by supporting organizations who provide emergency relief, and agencies that sponsor the relocation of legitimate refugee claimants to Canada. This is an important, immediate, but short-term opportunity.
The reality is that the Syrian and Kurdish (and Palestinian) crises have existed for many years before Alan’s death. And there are more displaced people in the world today than at the end of World War II.
Christians must recognize that God wants us to share his love and the truth of his gospel just as passionately today precisely in the harshest and darkest places. Places where people are oppressed, marginalized, and imprisoned as modern day slaves, where the Church is extremely persecuted and especially where it’s on the verge of extinction, as is the case in Syria.
In this time, extreme situations have created chaos, and people desperately need to hear the message of God’s hope through our witness and testimonies.
Therefore, Christians must come to understand the significance of the second and perhaps even more profound opportunity that this humanity crisis has created in witnessing to those who have lost everything and to serve their fellow Christians in rebuilding the church in the region. Thousands of Syrian Christians have been killed or have fled and the Christian church has been decimated. Work must now be undertaken to nurture new believers, support remaining Christian leaders, and help them rebuild the church within Syria.
Relatively safe and stable places in the Middle East like Lebanon have increasingly become strategic as a foothold to commence the rebuilding process.
Canadian Christians have an opportunity to witness and serve the millions of people who are trapped in transition, and will be in the foreseeable future, by coming alongside local in-country Christian organizations that are committed to long-term development and transformation in the region.
This is the quickest means of alleviating suffering and the best solution for long-term transformational peace in the region. The gospel meets the physical need today and brings the hope of transformation in lives for the future.
Kevin McKay is president of Partners International Canada, an affiliate of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, publisher of Faith Today. Check out At Issue in the Sep/Oct Faith Today for a primer on how your church can be involved in this issue. And watch for the Nov/Dec Faith Today for even more practical guidance.