This man, with many from his family, had miraculously escaped Iraq, just before many from his extended family and village had been cowardly killed by ISIS.
He, his wife and his four-year-old daughter, were under my care in Istanbul. The current refugee crisis was already underway, but it was NOT yet recognized by the EU, and hardly noticed by the US.
As Yazidis, my new friends did not feel comfortable in Istanbul. They wanted to get as far away from Iraq and ISIS as they could. My friend has a brother in Europe and another in America, so his goal was to make it to Europe.
They wanted to take a boat to a poor European nation. I strongly opposed the idea, “The boats are not safe, and the people helping you are really wicked opportunists,” I pleaded with them. But my friend said, “I know it’s dangerous, but we must at least, try.”
They waited, daily, for their contact to inform them that it was time to go to the boat and escape. Whenever I saw my friends, I wondered if it would be the last time I would see them alive.
One morning we awoke to a news headline about an boat overfilled with refugees that had capsized in the Bosphorus. Among the dead was a four-year-old girl. I furiously tried to contact me friend, as my heart told me that he and his family had been on that boat. Later in the day I contacted him, rejoiced that they were safe (I wonder how many people cried over the deaths of the other refugees).
I continued offering to help my friend, but my help was not tangible enough for him. I learned during this time that refugees are in “panic mode,” and it is very hard to stop them from moving. Soon, he sent his wife and daughter to live in Northern Iraq, in the Kurdish autonomous region, and he was determined to smuggle himself into Northern Europe.
For a period of time, I heard nothing from my friend, then suddenly I heard that he had, safely, made it to his destination. I have heard very little, since then, though his success has been confirmed by his brother in the US.
Since meeting my friend, I have made other friends and acquaintances. One was a freedom-fighter and the other was a journalist who fought his own battles in the Middle East. I’ve met a few musicians, farmers, factory workers, school kids and housewives, as well. All of them echo the same words that my refugee friend from Iraq said, “I know it’s dangerous, but we must try.”
Currently the world having the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. We know what and who created that crisis, and many lives were lost putting down Hitler. Many nations welcomed refugees from that war, and they have become part of those societies.
While it may seem hard to welcome this new influx of refugees, we must. It may seem “dangerous,” but we must at least try. I believe we will succeed if we try, and that this will honor God through the words of a former refugee, himself, Our Lord Jesus the Messiah who said,
“…I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me (Matthew 25:35, 36).”