Persecuted Christians stranded in foreign lands have new hope this week.
President Joe Biden formally announced Monday that he would raise the cap on refugee admissions this fiscal year to 62,500. This came after a bewildering few hours on April 16 when he seemed to go back on a campaign promise only to change course again under pressure from members of his own party, ministries, and other groups.
I feel for these refugees because I was once one of them. And as the founder of a ministry to refugees, I hear their stories of frustration when the admission process is delayed.
Early in the Biden administration, the State Department began booking hundreds of flights for refugees, including persecuted Christians from the Middle East. When Biden hesitated, more than seven hundred refugees had their flights canceled.
These refugees shouldn’t be confused with immigrants entering the country illegally through our southern border. Many of these refugees have been waiting years to legally enter the United States.
I had to wait, too.
No one wants to be a refugee
In 1982, I slipped out of my home country of Iraq while dictator Saddam Hussein waged war against Iran. I waited in Rome—where I accepted Christ as my savior—until I gained admission to the US.
If you know your Bible, you’ll remember that Jesus was once a refugee in Egypt, where his family fled from King Herod. I’m sure they didn’t want to leave their homeland, but they didn’t have a choice.
No one wants to be a refugee. I didn’t want to leave my family, my community, or my country. I didn’t want to start all over again in a foreign land. I didn’t choose to feel alone and confused in a new culture.
No one does.
But that’s the reality for people all over the world today who are forced to leave their native land in order to survive.
Refugees are your neighbors
While the world is developing and advancing faster than ever, the age-old issues of war, famine, poverty, and persecution continue to plague us. Yet most people simply seek a peaceful place to call home and an opportunity for a better future.
God reached me as a refugee and showed me the only road to true refuge. And he’s inviting you to join him in doing this for millions around the world.
The global church of Jesus Christ needs to provide the physical and spiritual help necessary for more refugees like me to be able to live decent lives and come to know the Lord as Savior. The church needs to live out the truth of Isaiah 40:1: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.”
As God comforted the Jews with these solemn words when they were exiled in Babylon, the church is also called to comfort those who are fleeing the Middle East and other countries because they have been rejected, abused, hurt, and broken.
Whatever your politics are, there’s one truth we as Christians can’t deny: refugees are our neighbors.
If you fear terrorism despite the careful screening process, refugees are your neighbors. Whether you voted Republican or Democratic in the last election, refugees are your neighbors.
If you’ve never in your life spoken to someone from another country, refugees are your neighbors.
And what does the Bible say you’re to do to your neighbors?
Jalil Dawood is the founder and president of World Refugee Care and pastor of the Arabic Church of Dallas. This article is adapted from his autobiography, The Refugee: A Story of God’s Grace and Hope on One Man’s Road to Refuge.