THE BLOG
11/20/2016 10:46 pm ET Updated Nov 21, 2017

A Message To All Those Who Care About Refugees

At this moment of heightened uncertainty about the US's future commitment to refugees, I wanted to share a few thoughts with you.

We know that refugees today are afraid and desperate. There are more than ever before who are seeking safety and solace. In the face of this growing global crisis and xenophobic rhetoric, there are a number of things that do encourage me.

First and foremost is the growing community of people supporting refugees whose sense of care, compassion, and empathy is more important than ever. We should continue to express these values in every way we can, to one another, in our work, words, deeds, and communities. I particularly appreciate the letter that a six year old boy wrote to President Obama about a Syrian refugee child.

"Dear President Obama, remember the boy who was picked up by the ambulance -- in Syria? Can you please go get him and bring him to park in the driveway or on the street and we'll be waiting for you guys with flags, flowers and balloons. We'll give him a family and he will be our brother.... I will share my bike and I will teach him how to ride it... Thank you very much! I can't wait for you to come!"

Many people across the US, and indeed across the world, share this sense of empathy and welcome. But we also know that xenophobia has raised its head higher. We hope the US will continue it's leadership in terms of caring for refugees. But it is precisely at such times of uncertainty that the actions of individuals and organizations become even more crucial.

A group of American Jews coming together to support others fleeing anti-semitic riots in Russia led to the founding of HIAS in the late 1800s. The story of the Sharps, a wife and husband who risked their lives during World War II to rescue refugees, led to the founding of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. Americans who came face to face with refugees fleeing conflict in Central America in the 1980s started the Sanctuary Movement. These and so many other stories through history tell us that it is individuals who inspire moral action that can guide others and influence nations.

When those facing the scourges of war and conflict do find security and become contributing members of their new communities, they then turn into the best messengers for their families and communities still seeking safety.

We must continue to share their messages of resilience and fortitude so that those who are safe can most effectively pave a path to security for others. And we must continue to immerse ourselves in the daily work of protecting lives, enabling refugees to find new homes, and ensuring that the US and other nations continue to stand firm in their commitments to refugees.