Syrian Refugees

Daniel Lim


The purpose of these posts is singular: to elicit empathy.   There is no shortage of bible verses calling for empathy.[1]  Yet, I find myself becoming more inward the older I get.  Life gets more complex, which I mistakenly think justifies a mild self-obsession.  How can I make my life better?  How can God make my life better?


I’m concerned about this selfishness, so I’m learning/writing about other, more important, issues to help purge this state of mind.  To be honest, even this endeavor sounds a little selfish, but maybe empathy is meant to benefit both the giver and recipient.  In any case, I can’t think of a better first post to achieve the stated purpose than one having to do with Syrian refugees.


As a result of the ongoing Syrian conflict: (1) approximately 470,000 people, tens of thousands of whom were children, died (through violence or indirectly);  (2) approximately 11 million people have fled or have been internally displaced; and (3) 6 million children rely on humanitarian aid, while 2.3 million children live as refugees in other countries.[2]


The purpose of these posts is singular: to elicit empathy. 


There is a lot of heartbreak here, and much that can be discussed.  But I wanted to specifically highlight the vastly different experiences of refugees in the U.S. and Greece.  The following are two articles discussing this: (1); and (2)[3]


In the U.S., we have over 10,000 Syrian refugees.[4]  Their lives are far from perfect I’m sure, but it is so encouraging to see some of them enjoying the little things we take for granted.  Through ICNA Relief, Real New York Tours, and International Rescue Committee, refugees living in New Jersey recently enjoyed the joys of a modern metropolitan city: the statue of liberty, street performers, zoos, carousels, picnics, etc.  Such amenities give them hope, and help them “savor[] the present.”


In Greece, however, where there are more than 50,000 refugees, things are more bleak.  Due, in part, to recent European Union policies, many of the refugees are stuck there indefinitely under poor living conditions.  The following excerpt illustrates such conditions:


“Families are packed into tiny rooms; only a fraction of the children are being admitted into government schools, where classes are conducted exclusively in Greek; and the eagerness of volunteers to help is waning.  . . .  [T]here are toilets inside the trailers, instead of out in the freezing cold; it’s one of the best-appointed camps in the country, I’m told.  But one rainy afternoon, I saw children throwing rocks into rivers of raw sewage.  A truck drove around, fighting a losing battle to empty the overflowing toilets.  . . .  By refusing to resettle refugees, Europe is whittling away at its commitment to human rights.”


These refugees’ hopes are deteriorating fast, and a lack of empathy appears to be the root cause.


We are so lucky to live in a first world country—and more specifically, a lavish county within a comfortably warm state within a first world country—filled with so many amenities.  I often forget this, but maybe being more informed will help keep me not only grounded, but more importantly, empathetic.


In closing, I’m reminded of Matthew 25:37-40:


“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’


The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”


Whether it be through prayer or other means,[5] I hope our empathy is shown through our actions.



[1]           See

[2]           See, e.g.,;;

[3]           The quotes that follow are from these articles.

[4]           See

[5]           See;