- There are an estimated 60 million refugees in the world today, which means that “1 in every 122 humans … has been forced to flee their homes,” and half of these are children. It is shocking to consider the numbers involved and to reflect on what this means in each individual life.
Elder Kearon reminds us that our pioneer ancestors were once refugees so we should empathize with their situation a little more than most people outside the church.
- As members of the Church, as a people, we don’t have to look back far in our history to reflect on times when we were refugees, violently driven from homes and farms over and over again. Last weekend in speaking of refugees, Sister Linda Burton asked the women of the Church to consider, “What if their story were my story?” Their story is our story, not that many years ago.
The Savior is a perfect example of being a refugee. His family had to leave their home to escape Herod and the apostles and Him had to leave places to flee the dangers that evil men wanted to do to them.
- The Savior knows how it feels to be a refugee—He was one. As a young child, Jesus and His family fled to Egypt to escape the murderous swords of Herod. And at various points in His ministry, Jesus found Himself threatened and His life in danger, ultimately submitting to the designs of evil men who had plotted His death. Perhaps, then, it is all the more remarkable to us that He repeatedly taught us to love one another, to love as He loves, to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Recent headlines have drawn attention to this situation but we need to be careful that we don't forget the situation continues when the media cameras go away and when the attention has moved on to another story to tell.
- We must be careful that news of the refugees’ plight does not somehow become commonplace when the initial shock wears off and yet the wars continue and the families keep coming. Millions of refugees worldwide, whose stories no longer make the news, are still in desperate need of help.
Where we begin is in our homes. We need to start by letting God know that we are willing to help those in need. We start this with prayer. We then look for opportunities in our ward, neighborhood, and community to assist those in need.
- Begin on your knees in prayer. Then think in terms of doing something close to home, in your own community, where you will find people who need help in adapting to their new circumstances. The ultimate aim is their rehabilitation to an industrious and self-reliant life.
- The possibilities for us to lend a hand and be a friend are endless. You might help resettled refugees learn their host country language, update their work skills, or practice job interviewing. You could offer to mentor a family or a single mother as they transition to an unfamiliar culture, even with something as simple as accompanying them to the grocery store or the school. Some wards and stakes have existing trusted organizations to partner with. And, according to your circumstances, you can give to the Church’s extraordinary humanitarian effort.
As members of the church, we have an obligation to treat all of God's children with respect and dignity. Cultures and traditions need try to be understood and respected.
- We must take a stand against intolerance and advocate respect and understanding across cultures and traditions.
Elder Kearon encourages us to get our of our comfort zone and see out opportunities for us to help.
- Let us come out from our safe places and share with them, from our abundance, hope for a brighter future, faith in God and in our fellowman, and love that sees beyond cultural and ideological differences to the glorious truth that we are all children of our Heavenly Father.
Finally, he reminds us that being a refugee will not define these people for the rest of their life, but how we react to their need may define us for ours.
- This moment does not define them, but our response will help define us.
I need to figure out how this talk applies in my life. I am sure I have an obligation to reach out and help with the refugee situation in my community but I am not sure what I can do. I am going to go back to my studies of Sister Burton's talk (here) and look at her advice on how I can reach out. I believe I have some opportunities to teach my family what the Lord would want us to do. I need to seek those opportunities and seek the Lord's guidance.