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I wasn’t expecting that

Claire Welch recently returned from visiting All We Can’s work with refugees in Jordan. In this blog post she shares some of her reflections:

There were things I had expected to hear – the horrific circumstances that had caused people to flee, the traumatic journeys taken, the pain of loved ones lost… But there were other things, awful and brilliant things that I heard, things I was not expecting. 

“Now I have memories only, but even those memories…I am beginning to forget.”

Ripped from an existence that they enjoyed, and torn from the place they once called home, the refugees that I met were mourning the death of their old life: “The things that are gone, they will not come back.” 

Homes, streets and towns flattened. Families, neighbours, and communities scattered. Security, peace and a sense of belonging stolen. In its place, vulnerability, disturbance and instability.

“We are living this life… but it’s not like our previous life at all. It is not the life I had.”

The average period a refugee is uprooted is 17 years. That’s 17 years of being stateless, experiencing limited rights and opportunities. 17 years of being without a place to call home.  The reality is, there seems to be no end to the Syrian war in sight, and no obvious way for people to return home – whatever ‘home’ may now look like. 

Living with such uncertainty is damaging – to be hankering after a life which no longer exists and a limited ability to plan and invest in the future. But life needs to continue in this wilderness. The people I met have been refugees for over a year, some for over four years. These refugees are not in need of emergency aid only, they are in need of belonging to a community again, to have the opportunity to live and not just exist, and to be able to fulfil their God-given potential.

I had the great privilege to witness how All We Can’s support responded to these needs – Child Forums where children could make friends and play, training providing people with new skills and income opportunities, support groups where new mothers could share and learn with each other, and many more life improving schemes. I saw how these activities restore dignity, build resilience and foster hope. But to me, this was made all the more possible because of the environment in which it happened.

Jordan’s willingness to show hospitality and compassion to over 600,500 Syrian refugees is remarkable and inspiring. I was told, “They said, ‘our country is your country’. I feel like I am a Jordanian.” The hospitality that refugees experience from the Jordanian host communities makes them feel wanted, valued and accepted. Not feared, threatened and rejected. I can’t help but compare it to the UK’s response, how we seem to squirm and fret at the mere 20,000 refugees we’re taking in.

In Jordan I was reminded that our call to ‘love our neighbour’ – to want, value and accept people – is costly. This is the love we see every time we look at the cross, the love we have gratefully received, and the love we’re called to emulate. The Jordanians I met are modelling this love to a people in mourning, providing an environment for an organisation, like All We Can, to help people not only survive their new life, but to thrive.

Find out more about the refugee crisis with your church, group or community and download our new resource ‘Refugees: “To all the people we can”‘

About the Author Claire Welch

Claire Welch is Churches and Volunteers Manager for All We Can. She is responsible for producing materials, including Bible studies and services, and provides support to our volunteer coordinators and speakers.

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