Small steps towards welcoming communities

Erol Kekic | November 11, 2015

Daniel Fekete from ACT Alliance member Hungarian Interchurch Aid offers water to a young refugee at Beremend, along Hungary's border with Croatia. Photo: Paul Jeffrey / ACT Alliance

Daniel Fekete from ACT Alliance member Hungarian Interchurch Aid offers water to a young refugee at Beremend, along Hungary’s border with Croatia. Photo: Paul Jeffrey / ACT Alliance

Just over two months ago, the world was held captive by the image of a Syrian toddler who tragically drown as he and his family fled the widespread violence in their home country. His photo and the story of his family’s struggle to seek safety touched the hearts of millions and gave the tragic situation in Syria a human face, serving as the catalyst for an incredible outpouring of support from communities and individuals around the world, all seeking to help refugees. However, months later, the crisis in Syria and others like it around the world continue, causing thousands of people everyday to leave their homes and risk their lives for a chance at safety.

As we continue to see the heartbreaking images of people fleeing unimaginable violence and circumstances, there also emerge stories of incredible compassion and hope. Working with Church World Service and other ACT Alliance partners around the world, I often hear stories of local residents opening their homes to refugees seeking shelter along the road to safety, places of worship providing food and comfort to those seeking refuge, refugees working together to help locate friends and family members, and countless strangers stepping up to offer whatever they can to assist refugees during their journey. These actions, however small, offer hope and comfort to refugees who have already overcome so much.

These small acts of kindness also give me hope when faced with the negative rhetoric heard from some. While so many communities around the world have opened their hearts and homes to refugees, some officials in Europe and even in the United States are struggling with how to react to millions of refugees from Syria alone. Unfortunately, this challenge has caused some to act with fear, closing their borders, and treating refugees with distrust and discrimination; however, these actions are not representative of the outpouring of support seen from those within their countries, dedicated individuals who continue offering support and a warm welcome to refugees seeking safety.

It is the positive actions and calls to welcome, that give me hope that in the face of the largest refugee crisis since the end of World War II. Governments, humanitarian and development organizations and communities can work together to find solutions for the 60 million displaced people around the world. These solutions oftentimes start small, but can create a lasting impact. Working together, we can ensure that all refugees are offered safety and the chance to rebuild their lives.

This year, Church World Service will offer its own small solution. At its annual Benefit for Change, we invite members of the community to celebrate with us as we honor the work of community members and refugees themselves who make a positive impact in the lives of newcomers. Through this event, we have the opportunity to continue our work, providing hope and offering resources to refugees around the world through our resettlement, advocacy, and grassroots programs. Join us on Thursday, November 12th in New York City and take your own small step towards creating a more welcoming community for refugees in your area. Purchase your tickets today.

Erol Kekic is the Executive Director of CWS’s Immigration and Refugee Program.