I can’t stop thinking about the way she smiled at me.
When we walked in and I stumbled through greeting her in Arabic. When we sat down to chat across the room from each other. When Salah translated her story for us.
Today our group broke into four smaller teams, and each team went out with a translator to meet and talk with a few refugee families. Global Hope Network International is working here in Amman to help refugees physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually as they face the journey of finding and making a new home and life. GHNI has been gracious enough to let us tag along and even translate for us as we learn about these refugees and hear their stories.
The first home we visited consisted of a mother, father, teenaged son, and another woman they had welcomed in who was unable to pay for rent to live on her own. The house was nearly empty, and when we sat down with them, the first thing they did was offer everyone a glass of water. Out of nothing, they still want to be hospitable. That’s what they do.
The couple fled Mosul, Iraq when ISIS began bombing homes in their area. Their nephew was killed in one attack.
The crazy thing is, it doesn’t seem like anyone notices them. I’m sure that’s not true – and the evidence is the fact that we were there talking with them – but it was the way every family we visited talked about their situation. They said Syrian refugees are prioritized, and Iraqi refugees receive very little attention. When they stand in lines for visas, the Syrians are directed one way, and everyone else is sent in another direction.
There are probably a lot of reasons people will give for this behavior, but I think the biggest difference is faith. Yeah. Faith.
Iraqi refugees are Christians. When ISIS infiltrates one of their cities, the people are given three options: convert to Islam, pay an impossibly high tax to remain Christian, or die.
So they run. They leave their homes, their jobs, their comfortable and content lives, their families, everything they know. They flee on buses or boats, holding nothing. Because they would rather leave everything and keep their faith than be killed or forced to ‘convert.’
Syrian refugees are Muslims, fleeing from violence.
Maybe people think that the Syrians have fewer options. Maybe they believe that if Iraqis wanted to, they could just go back home. But it’s not that simple. It’s never that simple. Everyone we saw made that very clear. ISIS is in control, and ISIS is a merciless oppressor. Going back is not an option. So they sit with us and tell us their story while they have nothing to offer but a few plastic chairs and cups of water. They left everything behind, but they still hold onto faith. They hold onto Jesus and they know that’s more important than everything else they left behind. Maybe sometimes it doesn’t seem worth it, but I see in their faces how God has provided for them when their faith has wavered.
It’s such a tragic life, but still, his wife kept smiling at me. She had a sweet, beautiful, genuine smile. And across the room, no matter what we talked about, she still smiled at me.
Tell me, what are you holding on to?