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Iraqi refugee: embrace refugees as the Bible tells us, as our neighbors

Jalil Dawood

Editor's note: This article is adapted from “The Refugee: A Story of God’s Grace and Hope on One Man’s Road to Refuge” by Jalil Dawood.

No one wants to be a refugee.

I didn’t want to be one. I didn’t want to leave my family, my community or my country – Iraq -- 35 years ago. I didn’t want to start all over again in a foreign land. I didn’t choose to be alone and confused in a new culture.

No one does.

But that’s the reality for people all over the world today who are forced to leave their homelands in order to simply survive, including the Syrian refugees that UN ambassador Nikki Haley just visited.

And while the world is developing and advancing faster than ever before, the age-old issues of war, famine, poverty and persecution continue to plague us. Yet most people simply seek a peaceful place to call home … and the opportunity for a better future.

There’s something inside every person that desires to help others who are suffering -- even strangers. No other creature on earth does that -- because it’s part of having the image of God in us.

Whatever your politics are on the refugee issue, there’s one truth we as Christians can’t deny: Refugees are your neighbors.

If you’re afraid of terrorism, refugees are your neighbors. Whether you voted Republican or Democratic in the last election, refugees are your neighbors. If you’ve never in your life spoken to someone from another country, refugees are your neighbors.

And what does the Bible say you’re to do to your neighbors? Love them.

My story has a happy ending, and it is unlike millions of refugees that are suffering and being killed. I am blessed that I was reunited with my Iraqi family in the United States, and that no one in my family was killed or injured. And now, through faith in Jesus, I have hope that I will be with Him forever.

My encouragement to you is to simply give other refugees that same hope -- hope for a better life today, and hope for eternal life in Jesus Christ.

I love this nation; I thank the Lord for the United States of America. This nation and its people showed me the Gospel and the way to salvation. This nation gave me a new start, the freedom I never had elsewhere and a bright future for my family.

And I’m grieved by the fact that my refugee story is so incredibly rare.

So let’s put politics aside and love our neighbors. Let’s ensure no refugee in the West or anywhere else goes hungry. And let’s be radical in the ways we share God’s message of hope with those who need the peace He offers through Jesus Christ.

Because your neighbor is anyone and everyone within your reach!

Jalil Dawood is pastor of the Arabic Church of Dallas and founder of World Refugee Care.