A few lovely friends and family members have asked me this question about my upcoming trip. I will travel to Greece from April 15th to 27th, where I will work alongside two organizations, Euro Relief and Greater Europe Mission (GEM), to provide assistance to Syrian refugees who are fleeing their war-torn homeland. Likely you’ve seen pictures in the media of the refugees crossing the treacherous waters of the Aegean Sea from the shores of Turkey, trying to find safety. Things are changing incredibly quickly in Greece. The UN, along with Greece and Turkey, are still working out an agreement regarding how to handle the massive flow of people into Europe. Potential deportations of refugees back to Turkey may begin as early as next week. Many of these adults and children are stranded in camps at closed borders; some are being arrested and readied for deportation.
So. Am I excited? Well, that’s not the word I would use to describe my emotions and thoughts around this opportunity I have to travel to Greece during this pivotal time in history, which has seen the highest numbers of refugees flowing into Europe since WWII. Trepidation? Desire to understand? Sadness at these precious men, women, and children’s situations, absolutely. As privileged Westerners, we need to stop our empty words, fleeting outrage, and hollow promises. Instead, we need to be silent, to reach out, and to step into the suffering and pain with true empathy. Only by listening to the stories of strangers can we begin to understand what is truly happening. This is what I will be doing in Greece. I go with some unease, but also hope. I pray that deep compassion will colour my every word and every step while I am there.
If you are the praying type, please do so. Pray for each member of the team I am on to be indelibly changed by this trip, requiring us to act. Pray for the end of war, of fear, of terror. Pray for the refugees to know they are beloved, they are not alone or forgotten. Pray for the people of Greece, who have upheaval and pain right on their doorstep.
If you would like to donate funds to some excellent refugee organizations, worthy causes (of which there are so many, I know), here are some suggestions:
- Journey Home Vancouver – http://www.journeyhomecommunity.ca/
- MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station) – https://www.moas.eu/
- Euro Relief – http://eurorelief.net/
- GEM – http://www.gemission.org/refuge
I would also encourage you to get involved, whoever you are, wherever you are. Learn about the plight of refugees from many different countries. Connect with a support organization in your area to see what they need to help resettle arriving refugees in your neighbourhood. Engage politically, find out what your government (read: YOU) is doing in this crisis, both on an international level and local level. Speak up for the vulnerable, the oppressed, the lonely, the forgotten.
Look around, reach out. Love. Step into another’s pain and truly see your own suffering in theirs.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
*Photo credit: cnn.com