50% of the world's refugees are under 18 years old. *Source
Be silent for a moment and consider:
How do you think the refugee experience might be different for a child than for an adult?
The picture of the two-year-old boy lying drowned on a beach in September of 2015 galvanised the world for a moment. Abdullah and Rehanna Kurdi, along with their children Ghalib and Alan, had traveled from Syria to Turkey, and were now trusting smugglers to get them across the Mediterranean Sea in a flimsy dinghy, the only form of transport they could afford. They were ultimately trying to get to Vancouver, BC, to a life that was safe and hopeful.
The family’s application for sponsorship had been officially denied, so this was seen as the only possible way out. The dinghy was overloaded to twice its capacity and capsized five minutes off the coast of Turkey. Rehanna, Ghalib and Alan all drowned.
Alan was certainly not the first refugee child to die on the journey, not even the only one to die that day. But the heart-rending photo of his little body sparked something in our collective conscience. “This is happening? In this day and age? To children?” Yes, and has been happening for a long time, and continues to happen.
We should remember that in the Nativity story, Mary is most likely of the age that we would consider a child, and Jesus was obviously an infant. And almost all the other children mentioned in the Biblical narrative die. This is not just a sentimental story best suited for eggnog and warm family moments around the fireplace. This is a story that resonates with the fear and vulnerability that the refugee children of our world face every day.
As we remember the name of Jesus at this Advent time, let us also remember the names of Ghalib and Alan Kurdi, and let us call to mind the millions of other children who make up more than half of all the refugees in our world.
Read: Luke 1:39-43.
Also consider reading The Boy on the Beach, a personal account of the tragedy by Alan and Ghalib’s aunt, Tima Kurdi. A foundation for helping other refugee children in their name can be found here.
Pray: Pray for the protection and safety of the children in your family, the children in your community and neighbourhood, and the children who right now are on the move around the world.
Pray for our international partners, the African Hope Learning Centre, and Beirut Nazarene Church, as they seek to help African refugee children who've fled to Cairo and Syrian refugee children who've fled to Beirut.
Our vision is to help people survive and recover from forced displacement. We do this together with the church, both globally, and locally in Canada.