Prayer for refugee children

Our world is experiencing the highest levels of displacement on record. Nearly 71 million people around the world have been forced from home by conflict and persecution. The world’s attention has been focused on just one camp, Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos where thousands of migrants and refugees have been left without shelter after a fire in the camp. The camp was originally designed to house 3,000 migrants, but was crowded with almost 13,000 people, living in squalor and desperate to leave the island. So far there has been nowhere for them to go. Since the fire families have been sleeping in fields and on roads. The refugees come from 70 different countries.

The problems of refugees have been enormous in Greece and Italy and have divided the European Union with the less wealthy southern countries absorbing more refugees and accusing wealthier northern countries of failing to do more, while a number of central and eastern nations are openly resistant to the idea of taking in a quota of migrants.

While countries around the world struggle with issues of what to do with this unprecedented flood of refugees one statistic stands out: half of the world’s refugees are under the age of 18. The flood of refugees is a flood of children. I read the story of one report by Reuters news agency about Congolese migrant Natzy Malala, who had a newborn infant and an eight-year-old girl. “There is no food, no milk for the baby,” she cried as she waited for bottled water to be distributed in a parking lot outside a supermarket.

Politicians and world leaders continue to argue and pontificate about refugees and what to do about the flood of refugees. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is a UN agency mandated to aid and to protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities, and stateless people. The agency is supposed to assist in voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country. White tents with blue lettering of UNHCR have become symbols of camps around the world where people are forced to live with minimal resources because they have nowhere else to go. Such is the plight of tens of millions of children.

Migration has been part of the story of humans as long as there have been humans on the planet. The Bible is filled with stories of our people in motion. Abraham and Sarah leave the land of their forebears and travel throughout the region in search of a promised land. Their children and grandchildren live the lives of nomads. Eventually the people of Israel become enslaved in Egypt. When Moses leads them from slavery they once again become refugees, wandering in the wilderness for four decades. Generations of our people were born during the years of wandering. The story of Israel is one of being homeless more than the short periods of time when our people had a permanent home. People worshiped God in tents for more years than they had temples in Jerusalem. When the people settled and had built a temple, they were conquered and led off into exile.

Ours is the story of refugees. And there have always been children among the refugees. There also has always been a mandate for people of faith to practice hospitality and to open hearts and minds and homes and lives to those who have need. Even a cup of water is a gift not only to those in need, but also to God. And so we pray.

We pray to you, O God, as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We study the stories of our ancient leaders and we remember how they made their homes in tents and traveled as people without their own land. We read the stories of our people’s many generations who lived with the promise of land, but without the reality of a place to call a permanent home. We know that our people came to faith in you before they came into a land of their own.

Be with the refugees who have no place to call home. Our world counts the refugees in tens of millions. And their children suffer from a lack of shelter, a lack of food, a lack of schools, a lack of places to play. May they not also be left without hope.

We read in the Bible that faith, hope and love abide, yet we fear for the refugee children of our world when their faith is dashed by storms and fires and human cruelty. Their hope is dimmed by the blaming and self promotion of politicians who use them as pawns in a cruel game of blame. Families are torn asunder. Children are left without guidance and nurture. Too many know nothing of love.

Yet, we know that you love all of the children of the world. We know that you call us to respond by sharing with families who have no shelter, food and safety. We know that the desperation of so many invites our response. All too often, however, we are paralyzed by the sheer size of the problem. We feel helpless in the face of the huge numbers. We seem insignificant in the scope of geo politics.

No problem, however, is too big for you, Gracious God. You walked in the desert with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. You called Moses to lead our people out of the land of slavery and into a life of freedom. You didn’t forget your people when they wandered without a home. You didn’t abandon them even when they forgot your presence and turned to worship idols and lies.

Bring comfort to refugee children, O God. Do not allow the leaders of this world to ignore them. Keep their stories in the news. May this humanitarian crisis inspire a new form of generosity and a new wave of hope for those whose needs are so great.

We place our trust in you. We place the children of the world in your ever-loving care. We pray without ceasing for the children of the world.

Amen.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!