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November 28, 2016

This is what we should do for the Refugees of the World.

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I once met a girl named Nya.

She was a self-proclaimed war baby, a title she spoke with pride. Dressed every bit like the typical American teenager, a deep conviction flashes in her dark eyes as she says it:

“I am a war baby from South Sudan.”

Her name was the legacy her mother fought so hard to earn for her. In the Dinka language of South Sudan, nyaring means “running.” And that’s exactly what her mother did. As a bloody civil war ravaged her home country, Nya’s mother took off into the bush and fled for the border of Kenya.

She ran on foot with a swollen belly. Nya was a refugee before she even came into the world. In the relative safety of her mother’s womb, she crossed that border and was born in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. A few years later after being cleared, she was moved to the U.S. And while that sounds like a beautiful story, wrapped up and tied with a bow, there is more. She lives each day here in the U.S. deeply concerned about her father’s safety. He is still in Sudan, and she prays for him every night.

There are thousands of stories like Nya’s across the country. Each story is unique like a snowflake or fingerprint, but they all have one thing in common: Refugees are here because they desperately needed and deserved safety. Refugees arrive without their families intact, with very little other than the faith that they will finally be safe as they sleep at night. Refugees are not the enemy, in fact they are the seekers of safe harbor from the enemy. They bring with them a rich culture and a personal story, both of which have the ability to expand the horizons of each and every American—if they choose to take the time and listen.

I am speaking to those Americans right now. Odds are you have seen a refugee or know one. Maybe they are your neighbor, a coworker, or maybe you’re only experience is seeing them in the grocery store as they speak their native language wrapped in beautiful batik fabrics swirled with colors. I encourage you to reach out. I encourage you to welcome them, and sincerely tell them you are happy they are here. Invite them over for coffee so you can hear the story of their amazing journey, if they care to share it. Help them find what they need in the grocery store.

Refugees around the country feel terrified right now. Some are afraid of violence, some are afraid their father will never make it to safety, some are afraid of you. Take the time to ask yourself, “What can I do to help them feel safe?” Because that’s the only reason they’re here in the first place. They simply want a home and a life free of terror, and they fought harder for that than anyone of us could ever imagine. Reach out, be a light in the darkness. Be kind. Be helpful, never hurtful. Be the safe harbor they prayed to find each night they languished in a camp, hoping to be a part of the one percent of refugees worldwide that will be resettled in another country.

I believe that if you look for the similarities instead of the differences you would find we all have more in common then we see at first glance. We all want to work hard for our family, to protect our children, to have education and healthcare and a community that we can be a part of.

To every refugee, I want to say “Welcome, I am glad you are safe. My name is Bree and if you need anything don’t hesitate to ask. My family promises to support your family as you make this transition.”

I hope you all choose to do the same.

Author: Bree Gidding

Images: Wikicommons, Video Still

Editor: Travis May

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