How You Can Help Refugees and Immigrants

June 19, 2018 by

Though June 20ths designation as World Refugee Day may go unnoticed by all but a small handful of people, its becoming harder every year to ignore the realities behind it. For millions, flight is simply a fact of life. Take Burma, where the unimaginable suffering of its Rohingya population has dragged on, month after month, with no end in sight. Take the Mediterranean, where, once again, a ship teeming with unwanted young Africans fleeing famine and war made disturbing headlines. Closer to home, take the government detention centers on Americas southern border where toddlers and babies are being snatched from the arms of their mothers and in some cases caged like animals, simply because their parents have been classified as illegal aliens.

These are just three instances of the countless horrors unfolding across the world stage this summer, and because all of them are the result of forces and agendas beyond our control, none stand the hope of being solved any time soon. So why write about them? 

 an immigrant child being taken into custody

Heres why: because even if these events are too vast to wrap our minds around, they are not abstract, academic problems. On the contrary, they represent the sum total of a million suffering souls, each with a particular face and name and story – and each of them deserving compassion.

Thats something our communities have been made more aware of in recent years, through requests for help from organizations like Save the Children and Samaritan’s Purse. At the invitation of these humanitarian aid organizations, we have sent dozens of young men and women to assist them in the field – from Lesbos and Puerto Rico to Liberia and Iraq – and trained more for future deployment. 

Even the most successful venture is a very little drop in a very large bucket. But each one still adds up.

Of course, even the most successful venture is a very little drop in a very large bucket. But each one still adds up – and so does every open heart and helping hand, no matter the power of anger, hatred, ignorance, or fear in shaping immigration policy on a national level. By way of example: our communities might not even exist today were it not for the kindness of the Dutch Mennonites who lent a hand to the Bruderhof refugees fleeing Nazi Germany in 1937, or the friendly government officials who facilitated our communitys safe passage from England during the bombing of London a few years later.

The Bible is full of implicit and explicit advice on how to treat refugees, from the Old Testament prophets with their stern warnings for those who, while cultivating a life of ease, refuse to welcome the stranger and ignore the cries of the poor; to Jesus, whose parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us that it is useless to acknowledge him as Lord if we neglect the far more vital duties of clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, offering shelter to the homeless, and visiting prisoners and the sick. All of which is to say that if we call ourselves Christians, there isnt much room for debate when it comes to the question of how to treat immigrants and refugees.

Again, we cant change the world. But we can always do something. As Mother Teresa once said, If you cant house or feed a hundred people, try housing or feeding one. If you cant love a hundred souls, start by loving one. If each of us, wherever and whoever we are, would take her challenge seriously, wed find plenty of opportunities to open our hearts, minds, and wallets, and plenty of work to do. And not just because of this weeks headlines, or because its World Refugee Day. 


About the author

Paul Winter

Paul Winter

Paul Winter serves as the Elder of the Bruderhof. He lives with his wife, Betty, at the Maple Ridge Bruderhof.

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  • CK, thanks for your thoughts. We don't know the full story of this woman – probably no one does – but that does not take away from the larger concern for human suffering, and the main point of this article.

    Bruderhof Web Team
  • Sadly this lady kidnapped this child. Yes it was hers, yet if a man took a young child against the mothers wishes across the boarder people would be calling for justice. Mixing Christianity and politics sucks. Also there were twice as many kids in detention under Obama yet I never saw a blog of that. You are being used for political purposes.

  • Our church family has responded to the immigrants at the border. We will be reaching out to those who are fleeing and are caught up in this web of the works of the evil one. It is time for prayer- and actions whether taking someone in, marching, leaning on our governments and president. We wagged our heads when others were complicit in the deaths of fleeing refugees. Even more so now it is our turn to be used by God for the good of the "least of these my brothers (and sisters)" Indeed Jesus has told us that they are first in the kingdom of God. It is a time to treat them with the honor they deserve and with all we can muster in each opportunity that presents itself. It is more than a time of praying for these people, but in working with those who are seeking to right the wrongs, give housing, comfort, and solace to any and all in the areas we live in that God's righteousness be done by our loving and even risky actions. Please pray for the actions of our small congregation of street people and others as we do God's will in being new versions of the Samaritan serving the fallen sojourner on the side of a desert road. First of all, let us search our hearts before God to do and be the right persons in laying down our lives for our brothers and sisters represented in that small child in the photograph.

    Carolee Uits
  • John Peters, thanks for your concern. That image was not photoshopped but it's true that the original story told about it didn't quite match up to the reality of the particular situation. (The Washington Post among other major news outlets has covered the issue in detail.) However the provenance of the image takes nothing away from the larger issue of human suffering, and Jesus' directive of active compassion, which is what we're concerned about, not the politics or policy.

    Bruderhof Web Team
  • Ed Hearn, thanks for your suggestion. We've partnered with organizations such as Save the Children to help in refugee-related crisis in various parts of the world, and will continue to do so as much as we are able. We are also seeking how we might get more involved in such humanitarian efforts.

    Bruderhof Web Team
  • I am disappointed that you illustrated your concern about illegal immigrants with a faked photoshopped picture of Trump and a crying child. The reality was quite different. The mom put the kid down to be frisked by the agent. She said it was 11PM & the child was thirsty & tired. She had abandoned husband & kids in Honduras for a second attempt to get into the US. The Bruderhof needs to be sensitive to close association with the Democratic Party; especially as an echo chamber for their talking points. The Dems/progressives are no friends to religion, as Cdl. Dolan recently discovered.

    John Peters
  • Are not the Bruderhof communities best positioned to receieve some of these refugies?

    Edward Hearn
  • Unless we love each other , we can not be brothers and sisters in God. There are always something for your neighborhood. Lets love each other and share everything we have..Thank you Paul