In the northern hemisphere, these are the darkest days of the year. The hours of daylight drop to their smallest number until the Solstice, on December 22nd. Until then, the light in the world dims. The world’s darkness isn’t only physical, of course. In Washington, D.C. where I live, the physical world is darkening with rain and fog. But the political world is darkening too. Tomorrow, it is likely, we will impeach our President for only the third time in the nation’s history. This, to me, is actually a sign of hope, viewed in comparison to the many darknesses he and his government have inflicted upon the country and the world.
But the deepest darkness I am struck by this year is that darkness affecting migrants and refugees. The United Nations is presently hosting a Global Refugee Forum. This is a gathering of leaders, organizations, and advocates who work on behalf of refugees. What they tell us is pure horror. Antonio Guterres, the current Secretary General of the United Nations, and a former UN High Commissioner for Refugees, knows this horror well. He spoke at the opening of the forum describing 70 million people who are currently displaced from their homes. This is the largest number of people on the move since records have been kept. Most of these, he says, flee violence.
Follow the Global Refugee Forum here: Global Refugee Forum.
Consider the millions of people who have fled Syria. Consider the tens of millions who flee Africa, trying to cross the Meditteranean. Consider the millions from Central America who set out for the United States’ southern border because of violence in their home countries. The world is convulsing with violence and the people: men, women, and children, who run from it.
The world is wounded. In many ways, humans are tearing one another apart. Whether through religious hatred, ethnic hatred, racism, and fear of “the other,” people are turning to nationalistic leaders using simple slogans to stoke fear among people– fear of others.
What will we do? Those of us with means have a responsibility to act on behalf of these 70 million people who have taken the life-altering decision to leave their homes in search of peace. What will we do? Those of us who live in democracies, who supposedly can make our governments act out the public will– we have a particular responsibility to speak up, vote, donate, and work to support those who help refugees and any people who are on the move.
None of us chooses the land of our birth. I did not earn my birth in California to hardworking parents. In the same way, the Congolese family who runs from brutality did not choose to be born into that violent country. The Syrian women and children did not choose to live in a country ruled by a vicious and violent despot. The young people of El Salvador did not choose their land of birth. They did not elect to be born in a country racked by drug gangs and the varied violences of poverty. We are all in this together. Whether we go to bed safely tonight or not. But we who do have a profound responsibility to help those who are not safe tonight. Unfortunately, that number, of people going to bed in peril, grows every day.
One would think the Christmas images would propel Christians to take this especially to heart. Imagine the couple on the road, giving birth to their first child in a shed. Imagine that family with a newborn fleeing a tyrant who is killing (caging?) children. These images reveal to Christians the manner in which the Divine came to earth. Yet, tragically, all many Christians and their churches can do is fret about sexual ethics and internal church questions.
We are all responsible for aiding the growing numbers of our fellow humans who tonight– are on the run. As we approach Christmas of 2019, what will we do to heal this wounded world?