Like most people, I was horrified by the acts of terror in France last Friday. And I believe like many others, I am bone-weary, to the point of being numbed to it all, by the violence and terror throughout the world, whether it is perpetrated by ISIS/Daesh or by our own homegrown terrorists like Dylan Roof.
But I was struck by a new horror this week, as I watched the conversation spiral away from recognition and condemnation of violence and terrorist ideology, and instead focus on lashing out at the Syrian refugees fleeing this same terror. Too many of us are pulling in, withdrawing our compassion and our hope in the name of protecting ourselves. It seems to miss the point that when we lock out the world we hurt ourselves worse than when we open ourselves up. We humans are social creatures built to need one another and to create ties and community. When we close our borders, physical or emotional, we diminish ourselves.
And so I think the most important conversation I have seen this week is the often-linked conversation between a father and son in France:
"They might have guns, but we have flowers."
"The flowers and candles are to protect us."
The father's name is Angel Le, and he summed it up perfectly. Guns, and what guns represent: fear and anger, are everywhere. But we don't need to respond back with more fear and anger. We have flowers instead. We have flowers which symbolize love, and candles for hope. And hope and love together have the power to drive away fear and anger.
So for now, I am going to act out love and hope instead of pulling in to my fear and my anger. I'm going to follow the words of the new presiding bishop, Michael Curry, and live out the angel's command to be not afraid.
And I'm going to put my money and my actions where my words are. This is my challenge to myself and to everyone reading this: Live out love and kindness. The new year for the Church is fast approaching. Make a commitment to give of yourself in this coming year. Support the Syrian refugees who have fled the terror we saw this week in France if you can, but if that isn't the cause that is dear to your heart, find one that is and make a stand for it. Give of your money if you can, but also give of your time in service and volunteering, or give of your talents and skills to local, national, or international charities or organizations.
If you want to help out with refugees throughout the world:
The UN Office of the Human Rights Campaign is one of the primary avenues of support and refugee assistance. You can donate into their fund for help in various different aspects of human rights, or follow their links to other human rights bodies which may have more specific focus areas: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Pages/WelcomePage.aspx
The International Red Cross/Red Crescent: http://www.ifrc.org/ is also working on the current refugee crisis, and on disaster relief throughout the world.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/ works throughout the world wherever there is a medical crisis, including within many refugee camps.
For all these agencies, I would suggest donating to the general fund/area of greatest need. This lets the agencies prioritize where they can give the most help and avoids situations where they are overfunded for one disaster but cannot give the aid needed for another ongoing crisis.
If you do not want to help with the refugee crisis, look up the cause that concerns you the most and give it your attention and your support. In the US, look up 211.org and find your local area's agencies and charities, contact any of the ones listed, and ask how you can best help. Having worked in non-profits, we always had a list longer than we could stand of ways to get involved or to support our work.
Just, whatever else you do, do not close off your heart. Do not refuse to help. We are small, and none of us alone can fix the hurts of the world. But when we join together and each chip in a tiny part, the world will never be the same.