Pheros isn’t waiting for anything anymore.
Pheros is a hollow-eyed 19 year old Syrian living in his family’s temporary housing in Marj, Lebanon, near the Syrian border. I met him on a recent trip to Lebanon. He lives with five siblings and mother and father in an unfinished concrete structure with two rooms amidst rows of tents full of other Syrian refugees.
At first, he was reluctant to come out of the back room and meet the American visitors. When he came out, he barely spoke. He looked vacant, empty. The translator could hardly get anything out of him, but when he did, Pheros only admitted that he didn’t go to school, didn’t work, didn’t have any spark of interest in anything. All he wanted to do, we finally got him to admit, was to return to Syria and fight alongside the rebels.
Nejav is waiting for her father to join her family in Lebanon.
She’s still young, only six years old. She lives with her mother and siblings in a shelter in the southern city of Sa’naa, Lebanon.
The truth is that she’ll never stop waiting, because her father was killed in Syria during the civil war. Her mother smuggled them across the border in a desperate bid to keep the family together and safe.
Mohammed got tired of waiting.
After moving his family into Turkey, away from the conflict in Syria, Mohammed experienced nothing but dead-ends. Anxious that there was no future there, he spent his last euro on a midnight rubber raft ride across the Aegean Sea.
I helped Mohammed and his family get off the raft on the island of Lesvos, Greece. They were visibly shaken, cold and wet, but relieved to be in Europe.
A few days later, they would be on the mainland, headed to Germany and the possibility of a brighter future for their children.
I wait patiently for my country to open its arms wide to those who are homeless and stateless.
Since the 1970s, the U.S. has shown great compassion toward people displaced by war and oppression. The Statue of Liberty has served as our secular inspiration, while people of faith have re-read the Torah, the Koran, and the New Testament for a prophetic challenge to “welcome the stranger.”
Unfortunately, in the past two years, fear has gripped the national mood, and chilled our view of foreigners. As a result, in 2018 we will likely resettle our lowest number of refugees in years, leaving millions stranded in distant tents and far-away beaches.
Pheros, Nejav, and Mohammed will still be waiting.
Rev. Dr. Wes Magruder was appointed Senior Pastor of Kessler Park UMC, Dallas, Texas in 2014, having previously served churches in North Texas and Great Britain. He also has served as Director of the Cameroon New Mission Initiative for the General Board of Global Ministries. He is the current President of the Board of Directors of Refugee Services of Texas, and is the author of “Jesus Was a Refugee.” He’s married to Leah, and father of Rachel, Chloe, and Mallory. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org