Saturday, June 24, 2017

Treated like a Zoo

Most of the people who randomly read my blog will never step foot in a refugee camp. Your understanding is limited to what you've read or perhaps pictures seen. I think the general consensus is that most are inhumane and the conditions are in desperate need of being improved... While both of those thoughts are accurate, neither fully capture what it means to be the one living in the camp.

Have you ever visited a zoo and walked away with a heavy heart? There's just something about seeing a massive elephant confined to a small habitat that makes me feel sad. Or little monkeys swinging from plastic branches and roped up tires. Or tigers reduced to pacing back and forth in front of a door for their next meal. Essentially what they've been designed to be and do has been stripped away due to the selfishness of others around them. I'm just as much to blame- I love getting to see the majestic creatures that I'd likely never behold in my lifetime in their natural habitat. And the truth is, I wouldn't even come near most if I encountered them in the wild (they scare me!).

The refugee camps take on a bit of a zoo-type feeling. You have these amazing, full of life, talented people who have truly the most heroic characteristics from the horrific events they've been exposed to  all packed into a small space. Some are carpenters, doctors, students, artists, or teachers. Some have suffered horrors at the hands of a people they've now been commanded to share a tent with (which many do so without fighting). They have undertaken a journey marked by unmentionable bravery and fortitude to simply reach this place and remain for months or years. Most of them literally have to say just a few sentences before I am humbled and feel unworthy to call them friend.

And yet, here they all are, trapped in a place that essentially strips them of all that being a resilient person (or merely a human being) means. "You can't work. You can't cook for yourself. You can't chose your own clothing or even wash them. You must eat these things. We don't have drinking water for you. You must live in the unknown and wait until I tell you that you can move forward (or backward). No one wants you here, why don't you just go home? Because your country is at war, you've now become a statistic, lost in the midst of a sea of other refugees... unknown, unvalued, unwanted, and uncared for!" Literally every day screams those messages loud and clear to their hearts.

When fear controls our hearts and decisions, we buy into the lie that people who are different than us, that people fleeing areas of war, that people who come from certain places in this world aren't worthy of a chance, of an education, of a future, of love... Oh, but when fear is removed and compassion takes root, then, and only then, are people able to be the majestic creatures God designed us all to be!

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