Risk and Refugees

Risk game
A long ago family Risk game. Notice, I wasn’t there.

The game of Risk bores me. My husband and sons enjoy strategizing and scheming with their armies, but not me. I’d rather play cards or have a chat instead of rolling dice to determine the outcome of battles.

However, when I consider that there are 68.5 million people who are refugees, internally displaced,  or are seeking asylum, I’m reminded of a game of Risk. 68.5 million people are like unarmed armies serving someone else’s desires in a game. And the risk is all theirs.

Leaders calculate public perception of an immigration policy and base their actions accordingly. US immigration policy has been a mess for years. It desperately needs attention, but apparently congress, both Democrat and Republican, cannot put aside politics and do the right thing. Or anything. It’s shameful.

Meanwhile, millions of refugees wait.

In the prologue of City of Thorns, author Ben Rawlence tells of a 2014 briefing of the National Security Council about Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Dadaab was established in 1991 and houses 235,269 refugees, many of whom have lived their whole lives there.

Their worlds were miles apart. Rawlence, who had spent considerable time in Dadaab, writes, “I was asking them to undo a lifetime of stereotyping and to ignore everything that they were hearing in their briefings and in the media.”

It’s easy to view refugees as a group of unnamed and unknown people about whom stereotyping is commonplace, but they are each individuals with a devastating story. Most of them are good people – some are not – but all of them are stuck in refugee camps.

Tim Kustusch, who spent some time in the Sahrawi refugee camp in Algeria and now works for World Relief, became interested in refugee work when he visited the refugee camp. “It just angered me so much how this huge group of people were oppressed and totally forgotten about just because this other group of people had bigger weapons…Every year the UN promises them, ‘we’ll have a referendum, we’ll have a referendum,’ and they never do.”

It would appear they are of no more concern than plastic armies in a game of Risk.

That is a shame. Kustucsh said that refugees taught him major life lessons. “I went there thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to help,’ and the people there just radically changed my life. They taught me what it means to struggle for something, to fight for something, and to survive against incredible odds. Stay united. They are very strong people.”

Refugees are waiting. It must seem as random as a roll of the dice in a game of Risk. Will anyone come through? People in a position to help have disappointed many of them. People may fail them, but though it may not seem like it, God is surely with them. He knows every one of their stories. They are far more than anonymous armies in a power player’s game.

Jesus came to earth and lived his life in humble fashion. He refused worldly power, prestige, and wealth, although he could have had them all. He was far more interested in following his Father.

Jesus wants us to live a life with the same values that he modeled. Love God and love each other were the most important commandments, Jesus told listeners, and all the other commandment hang upon those two. How we do that will depend on our life circumstances.

Risk is a game of strategy, and the outcome will not be realized until the game is over. To follow Jesus and act in love toward our neighbors, refugees and immigrants might seem a risky endeavor today, but the game isn’t over. God’s Word tells us that he values love, generosity, faith and obedience over wealth building and self protection. It applies just as distinctly to those of us who live in the US and Europe as it does to those who are longing for a country to welcome them.

All of us, no matter where we live or under what circumstances, can follow Jesus in love. What will that look like for you?

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