It seems like the world is going crazy. Terrorism, political crises, gun violence, fear and paranoia pepper the news, and it can feel increasingly like we’re in a world ruled by chaos and not control. I’m one country over from France, where a truck driver plowed into a crowd of hundreds on Thursday night, killing 84 people. I’m living in Germany, where one-fifth of the population is from Turkey, a nation where an attempted coup for power unraveled only this weekend. On Sunday afternoon, I ate lunch with a Yazidi family from Iraq, forced to leave their country because of Isis. Certain crises feel a little more immediate this side of the Atlantic, although tragedy is striking the U.S. too. Regardless, I am struck again and again by the seeming impossibility of maintaining one thing in the face of horror: hope.
Before coming to Germany, I did the best research I knew had to do to prepare to come: newyorktimes.com. I found an article written by Bono that was super helpful in looking at the crisis from a larger perspective. Bono talks about refugees he met in camps in Jordan, Turkey, and Kenya that keep their hope in the face of horrific circumstances. And that is what fascinates me: the human capacity for hope. I want to believe that there is hope for these men, women, and children, and I want to believe that there are practical solutions for the political, cultural, and economic ramifications of this crisis, as well as real opportunities for these people to start again.
The bible says this about how God treats those who are oppressed:
The lowly he sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety. He thwarts the plans of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success..He saves the needy from the sword in their mouth; he saves them from the clutches of the powerful. So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth.*
Believing something like this takes a crazy amount of faith and hope, especially when you’re the one that’s “lowly” and in need. I’ll probably never understand. But love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.** And at the end of the day, one of the best things I can do as one individual is to try to have compassion for each person I meet in Germany, by meeting practical needs and communicating kindness. Having compassion on someone means that you not only acknowledge their need, it means you empower them with education, information, and resources- with what you have been given yourself.
This past week, we hosted a one-week English camp for refugees from all over the world. Not all of them were from the Middle East; I had students from Albania, who left their country for economic reasons, and even a couple children with parents from Cameroon. Regardless of their reasons for coming, my students wanted to come to learn English because they had hope that this skill would open doors for them for new jobs, new relationships, and new perspectives. Learning a new language is difficult, but it provides a powerful gift at the end of the process: a new mode of communication for a fuller and more prosperous future. It’s not always a choice though. Refugees in this country must learn German in order to survive. So they are learning, pressing on, and starting new lives.
A couple weeks ago, I met a family of Syrians in a park at an event we hosted for locals, with music, face painting, crafts, food and soccer. The father of the family communicated to me that he had traveled from Syria to Jordan, across the Mediterranean to Greece, into Macedonia and Bulgaria, through Hungary, and finally, into Germany. It didn’t matter that he couldn’t share in great detail- I got the gist. He had left his family behind to travel by bus, boat and probably foot to escape the horror of his home country and give his family a chance. Six months after arriving to Germany, he was able to fly out his wife and children. Thank God. But his sisters had been killed by Isis. After he told me that, his little daughter came running towards us, screaming with laughter, face painted with a moustache. We looked at each other and smiled at her exuberant joy, and in her belief that at least in that afternoon, in that moment, that she only had good things coming, and in that moment I felt hope.
*Job 5: 11,12,15,16
**1 Corinthians 13:7