For the last six months I have been working with a small organization called Their Story is Our Story to put together a website. I had noticed a friend of mine, Garrett Gibbons, posting about a trip he was making in Europe, interviewing refugees. The refugee crisis had caught my attention and concern for months. When I saw the photo of that drowned boy washed up on the beach, I couldn’t help but see my own preschool blonde headed son. Even more alarming than the crisis itself, was the rise of anti-immigrant/refugee rhetoric in my own country.
My parents joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) when they were in college. I have been raised in the faith and embraced it in my own life. Had my parents lived in an earlier time and joined the church in the early 1830s my family could have been refugees twice over, driven from Missouri by mob action, and then again from Illinois by threat of violence.1 The history of my faith tradition is not unique, at different times many communities have been targeted for their beliefs or ethnicity. Sometimes there have been people to help them after they escape immediate danger, and other times their cries have only been heard by their Maker.
As an adult, I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with hispanic immigrants, many of whom are fleeing violence that is not that dissimilar from the war in Syria. Those conversations have made me better and they have made me want to do what I can to help. Their Story is Our Story is an attempt to give refugees a voice, and to spread their stories into our communities. When I saw what Garrett and his team were doing I offered to help and here we are, with a website where you can read, hear, watch, and share the stories of refugees.
The refugee crisis is the largest humanitarian crisis of our time and we can each do something to help. We can donate to worthy causes, find local refugee organizations and volunteer, and do our part to make their voices heard. If you want to resist rising intolerance and religious exclusion, you can learn about refugees and share their stories. I am grateful for the opportunity I have had to assist in this effort and hope that more will join and help those who have lost so much.
The irony of a new religious movement being persecuted by a nation that lionized and mythologized their religious refugee ancestors (pilgrims) is darkly comic. Today’s exclusionary outcries aren’t that different. Most of our ancestors came from somewhere else. ↩