Celebrating History's Most Famous Refugee, Ignoring the Rest

By: Chase Encalade

With December upon us, it is a good time to remember the reason we celebrate Christmas. Some call it the greatest story ever told. According to Christian tradition, an angel of God appeared to a young girl from Nazareth, named Mary. The angel tells her that she will give birth to the Son of God; a king whose reign will have no end. Fast forward roughly nine months later and Joseph (Mary’s husband) is called to Bethlehem to pay his taxes.

He and his pregnant wife ride a donkey all the way from Galilee (the region in which Nazareth is located) to Bethlehem and upon reaching their destination Mary goes into labor. Joseph worries about where the child will be born and goes about the town looking for an inn. Mary and Joseph frantically knock on doors to see if anyone would let them acquire a room, but to no avail from any of the innkeepers. Eventually they accept one man’s offer of a barn. It is in this barn that the Savior of the world is born and placed among the animals taking up residence.

This Christmas season, while thinking about baby Jesus lying there in a manger, perhaps we should picture him as he really was-the child of two Israeli parents, born in a barn in modern-day Palestine because no one would let his family in. I can’t help but find similarities in this story to what we’re experiencing in the world today. Millions of people in Syria have been caught up in a battle much larger than themselves. They seek asylum and can only hope that their neighbors with room will provide for them. Over and over again, they hear “no room!” simply because a few people who look like them have committed offenses. 

Take for instance the story of 50 Syrian refugees living in a junkyard in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. Leaving Syria was not optional for them-their choices were either leave or be killed. It’s a bit strange to me that the most welcoming place they’ve found so far is the back side of a junkyard. 

Of course, fear is among the top reasons that some think the refugee crisis should not be “our problem.” However, we should keep in mind that these Syrians are running from the same ISIS that everyone else is so worried about. They’ve already lost everything and long for a place of safety. 

A Syrian woman taking refuge in Turkey with her husband expresses how much she misses having an ordinary life: “We have nothing left in Syria. I want to continue working as a doctor in America. Here my hands are tied. Refugees are not allowed to work. I don’t have papers. I can’t communicate with anyone. I worked my entire life to become a doctor.”

Photo: Humans of New York

Perhaps we are afraid that what happened in Paris will happen here in the U.S. Terrorism has been an imminent threat to our country for decades now. Somehow, we only bring up religion as the main motive of an attack if the offender is Muslim. What about the Christian terrorist who attacked Planned Parenthood in Colorado? Or the mass shootings that happen on a regular basis? 

Penn State Law professor Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia talks about how it’s quite possible that Syrian refugees are not the biggest problem we have to deal with. “Refugee admissions are set by the President, and guided by federal law." The U.S. will intensely screen those who seek refuge in our country.  “It's been misleading for leaders of states to apply what happened in Paris to would-be refugees who may come to the U.S," Wadhia said. "There is a significant screening process to take before individuals are admitted." 

The people of Syria, much like Mary and Joseph, ache for a place to rest. God worked through a lowly man to provide his barn, all he had, in order for Christ to be born. Maybe God longs to use us in the same way, to provide a safe haven for his children. He loves us all, wherever and whoever we are, regardless of nationality and race, and in spite of everything. The Jesus I’ve read about calls us to extend His love to others, no matter the cost. 

Chase Encalade is a Sophomore at Christian Brothers University and a staff writer at the Galleon.

Posted by Josh Colfer at 1:39 PM

The Galleon is curated and managed by Christian Brothers University, a Memphis-based university founded in the Lasallian tradition (a sect within the Catholic faith). Part of our founding mission is to uphold respect for all persons-regardless of political, religious, or social beliefs. As an institution, we take no stand on political matters; to do so would undermine our commitment to intellectual inquiry and thoughtful response to events taking place in our World by members of the CBU community.

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