Saturday, December 16, 2017

Refugees, Part I of God-Only-Knows

I find as I compose this in my head that it ends up being a manifesto for a great portion of my Christian beliefs.  It keeps leaking out into other topics, which deserve at least some commentary to avoid being misunderstood. Alas, I find that usually, the longer I go the more I am misunderstood.

Refugees are a lot more work than most other ministries. They are more helpless than the ambitious, even devious others who try to come to America to get ahead.  That doesn't mean that they all are helpless, and will never find work, and will always need people to rescue them. Most of every tribe on earth is composed of people who know how to do some work or be trained, who know how to get along with others, have some idea of how to bring up children, some way of dealing with conflict. Some refugees were persons of education and cleverness in their previous culture. If you know 100 refugees who have been here a decade, almost all of them will have at least some employed family member, will have found a network But most is not all, and a larger percentage of refugees than other immigrants will never quite figure it out.  Their children are wildly over-represented in needing special services and interventions. Their crime rates are high, especially WRT crimes against women. I can assure you that they are high users of public mental health services. They are over-represented in food stamps, on Medicaid, on disability. A lot of this is temporary.  A lot of it is not.

So when Christians agree to take in refugees and help them adjust and get launched, they are binding the rest of their society in to absorbing some of that cost. It used to be that people could come only if they had sponsors, and I think some version of that is still true. Most church groups do this responsibly and do most of the work, getting people into jobs, and apartments they can afford. We did a lot with Laotian refugees in the early 80's.  We did a lot with Sudanese refugees until recently, and still contribute heavily to their church. In between, I have had lots of refugees at the hospital.  Southeast Asians and Africans, mostly, but some Slavs, in small waves. One of the additional difficulties is that refugees usually do not have an ethnic community they can connect to, of people speaking their language, giving them advice, helping them out with small things, providing networks for jobs. Immigrants from Mexico, Brazil, or the DR have that.  Bosnians and Dinka do not.

It's hard, and churches that take on this ministry are not able to do other things. Once a church has decided that this is its calling, then that may be less important. I am of the school that says "You put your money on 32 red, and where the ball lands you live with it." If God sent you there, that is some comfort that even though it is impossible and you may not succeed, you are in His will. Once they are here, you don't have much choice.

If you are one who is doing this ministry, then I think you have some heightened say about how many more the society around you should take.  In America, you do not have anything like authority about that, but I think you should have influence, both for the positive and the negative. We can do more.  Get us some more.  Approve some more. Though also We can't do more. Our people are stretched.  If you can't find other people to take this on, then those over the sea must wait. What I dislike greatly are those who say that "we" can take more in order to signal how virtuous they are, when they have no intention of doing more than dropping by and saying something encouraging. They are forcing other people in their society to work - a kind of slavery.  If you are insisting that America take more refugees, then you had damn well be one of the ones teaching English, driving to appointments, or directly contributing lots of money. I might grumble about carrying extra weight, but if you are shouldering the primary burden, then I will honor your work as fellow citizen and take my turn.

If you aren't, then I hate you.  Really, I do.


Sam L. said...

Virtue signallers, those are. Virtue doers, now, are worthwhile.

jaed said...

Tangentially, it makes little sense to me to so urgently prefer to bring refugees here, permanently, if they are from cultures that are very dissimilar to ours.

Granted this is a wealthy country, but it seems to me that—if people are beset by conditions such that they have to leave home permanently—they'll do better if they settle in a place that's safe, but otherwise similar to their home. Same language, similar customs, same religion, similar mutual expectations, or some combination. (It's not as though bringing them here is the only way for us to provide assistance and help, after all.)

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Stay tuned...