It’s invigorating, at least it is to me, when different things unexpectedly hit you inspirationally in a short space of time. But it can also be sobering. Recently Chris Seiple tweeted that Oskar Schindler spent all his money saving people of a faith not his own. Are we still capable, Chris mused, of such sacrificial love?
As I was challenging myself with that, aware that Chris was alluding to the severe need faced by countless refugee families in the Middle East, I happened to read a clever take on a summer blockbuster film, Fantastic Four. Written for Sojourners by Lindsay Kuntz, the article turns on the question of leadership. Here is my takeaway: we Americans can end our wistful hunger for Fantastic Four leadership against evil by becoming leaders fighting evil ourselves.
“Many American Christians say they are hungry for leadership,” Lindsay writes, “but what are we actually doing beyond indulging in fictional stories of Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, and The Thing battling evil, or the barely less fictional ‘leadership’ on display in contemporary politics?
“We need to do more than complain from the comfort of our air-conditioned family rooms. The stakes could hardly be higher for Christians and other religious minorities in the greater Middle East – they are at risk of extinction or permanent exile. The international community has essentially given up, as it has little funding and even less vision and resolve. Hence there is a vacuum of leadership that needs to be filled. We need to identify practical ways of bringing people and resources together to combat evil – indeed to transform it with good. For American Christians one of the best places to start is with proactive engagement of the refugee crisis.”
I also happened to read Carmen Andres, who was blogging about news stories in the Telegraph and the Guardian, which reported on how 10,000 Icelanders responded to a Facebook campaign by author Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir to urge the government to take in more Syrian refugees. “The striking aspect of this story,” Carmen wrote, “is not only the number of Icelanders expressing their support but that they are also volunteering to personally help the refugees by donating services, time, clothes, money, furniture, children’s toys and even their homes.
“It makes me wonder what it might look like if churches, communities and cities around the U.S. started to talk about pooling our resources and offering to support groups of refugees in our own country. Perhaps some members could offer one of their rental homes for free for a year. Maybe others could offer jobs. Doctor offices could offer a list of pro-bono services. Churches and mosques could offer furniture, clothing and food. Teachers could offer language training. Local social agencies and organizations could link together and coordinate to provide services. The possibilities of ways we could come together to embrace refugees into our communities is endless.”
Chris, Lindsay, and Carmen are all friends of mine, but that’s not why I’m blogging about them here. They are engaged in remarkably worthy initiatives that bring urgent aid and relief to the increasing number of families in the Middle East who have fled from the murderous paths of ISIS and the vicious war in Syria. Their heartfelt cries, challenging to many of us, came together in my mind the other day.
They reminded me of just how crucial and vital “outside intervention” is toward people whose lives are suddenly out of control; people whose lives, even when they begin to get back under control, are best described as “life on hold.” There’s little, if anything, they can do end the chaos or get life moving again. As another friend aptly put it: “There is a sense of being frozen in time.” You’re wishing, praying, someone would intervene to make it all go away, or at least make marking time a little easier for you and your family.
It is difficult for many people to image what life is like for these families. But if your own life has ever suddenly spun out of control (I mean really out of control), or if it has ever shuddered trembling to a halt and got stuck on hold (you didn’t know for how long), then you may have a share in what it is like for these Middle East families (numbering in the millions), who wish for, long for, pray for intervention. And when that leadership arrives, no words can express one’s gratitude. Chris and Lindsay serve the Cradle of Christianity Fund, which I have previously blogged about. Carmen has been engaged in advocacy work for many years and raises awareness for Heart for Lebanon. Both are remarkable initiatives. Exercise some leadership. The Fantastic Four are never going to arrive. The possibilities for reaching out to the families is increasingly clear, limited only by the imagination of individuals, churches, and communities.
To find out more about the Cradle Fund, go here. To support it, go here. To read some short but informative articles of mine about the CF, go here. To read about the Cradle Fund’s three-fold strategy (rescue, restore, return), see this article in CT by Chris Seiple, President of the Institute for Global Engagement:
To find out more about Heart for Lebanon or support it, go here. To read Carmen’s moving blog posts, see For Such a Time Is Now.
©2015 by Charles Strohmer
Top image, Klaus Reisinger, via Creative Commons. Middle Image, courtesy of the Institute for Global Engagement. Bottom image, courtesy of Carmen Andres.
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