She plays in our kitchen, toddling on the tile floor with a tennis ball in her hand, her diapered rear providing a soft cushion when she miscalculates, topples over. This sweet girl is full of wonder, full of joy and light and fun. She explores her world, curious and alive, and she knows she is safe, she is protected, she is loved.
That safety, that protection, that love – they enable an adventurous spirit. On Sunday, she made it outside in a moment of inattention, our little escape artist did. Jonathan and I were in different rooms working on different things and we each thought Katie was with the other. She slipped out through the door into the garage. Jonathan found her down by the (thankfully covered) pool, the hatchet she’d dragged with her discarded on the deck, and my heart pounded at the possibilities, at all the ways she could have been hurt, this little girl of eighteen months, alone in the big wide world.
The danger came about by our inattention, by our own absent-mindedness, and is not a normal aspect of her life. This girl of mine has never known want, never known cold or hunger or pain, never had to flee for her life from evil murderers who want her dead for no reason other than that she is of a different race, a different religion, a different sect, no reason other than that she was born in the wrong part of the world at the wrong time in history.
There are others her age about whom such things cannot be said, those who have only known want, only known fear, only known cold and hunger and pain. There are others her age whose short lives have been marked by terror, by deprivation. There are those her age who have never known wonder, never had the time for exploration, who have made treacherous treks across land and sea in order to survive, who have left home and everything familiar in a desperate gamble to build a new life elsewhere. They know not where they will end up, only that it will be – that it must be – better than what they left behind.
They flee, seeking refuge, seeking asylum, hoping that the citizens of the free world will see their plight, see their need. That they will open their doors, their hearts, their borders.
The militants, the terrorists – they are wily and cunning, horrendous and evil in what they will do to strike fear, to unleash pain and sorrow and suffering. Those who would strap explosives to themselves and march into crowded marketplaces, those who would attack funerals and hospitals and restaurants, are capable of anything, will stop at nothing. Posing as a desperate refugee, blending in with the families and children, the old and the young, who are fleeing the carnage of their home countries – this is not beneath them, not beyond them. They can do it. They will do it.
The risk is real. There is certain danger involved in welcoming refugees. But then, there is always risk, always danger when we open our hearts and our homes to others.
I am not there, on the front lines in Greece and Turkey and elsewhere, not a citizen of one of the countries in danger of being overrun by a flood of refugees. I recognize there are logistics to consider, numbers to think about, realities to face, that it simply might not be possible to take them all. I know the danger is real, that the fear is legitimate. I know there are steps to follow, processes and procedures and screenings put into place for good reason. I know all of this.
But I also know that those people running, those people leaving everything behind – they are fleeing the same enemy we face, looking only for a corner of the world in which they can live and laugh and love in relative safety. They are mothers and fathers and grandparents, children and teens, infants and the very old, single and married and widowed. They are people. They are human. They are in need. And I know that this God I serve, the One who tells us that perfect love casts out fear, the One who told His followers to turn the other cheek, is also the God who said He’d be found among the poor, among the cast out, among the desperate and the needy. The God I serve was a refugee Himself, fleeing His homeland to escape the reach of a murderous tyrant.
I know this, too, that if we close our borders, if the free countries of Europe and America bar our doors against those who need a safe haven, if we lock them out for fear of what terror might be hidden in their midst, if we turn our backs on our ideals, if we refuse to welcome the poor, the needy, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, if we allow fear to take hold, then the terrorists will have won, as surely as if they’d bombed our cities to smithereens, leaving nothing but ashes in their wake.
Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For 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; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ -Matthew 25:34-40