By Sawson Ojailat It is an honor to be able to share my personal feelings, experiences and reflections and to share my opinion about the refugee situation here in the Middle East. I was born and raised in Kuwait. I then relocated to Jordan when I was 20 years old. I am now an Arabic teacher for foreigners here in Jordan and I have an opportunity to work with them as they help the refugees in our area. This is a privilege for me. I have learned many good things from them. Four years ago, refugees came in a big rush. They came from different nations like Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and Libya. It was easy to see the big difference the refugees made. When the number of Syrian refugees increased, the typical Jordanian perspective was that there were “just too many.” Local Jordanians see the entire world captivated by the “Syrian Crisis”. So many come to help them but they have forgotten about the local people. And they wonder, “Why is there just money and help for the Syrian. Why not other refugees, like the Iraqis? Why is the world sympathizing just with Syria?
Growing up Christian in a Muslim land
One of the benefits of being a Christian is that I have learned to love people from different religions. But that love and respect wasn’t always reciprocated. As a minority living in a Muslim culture, I grew up surrounded by a negative view of Christianity. All my life I was called an “infidel, a “kaffer,” or nazarine”. These words hurt, but I was not discouraged. I was always proud to be a Christian. I know I am not an infidel. I know the true God, and I have experienced God. I was reminded of the verse Mathew 5:11 which says “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” These words from Jesus continue to give me strength. After hearing these evil words and feeling condemned by Muslims around me, I began to interact with Muslims in only a formal way. I would be courteous and say “hi”, but I would not mingle and mix with them closely.
Learning to love the Muslim
It wasn’t until the huge numbers of refugees came, that I really learned how to love Muslims. I learned how to help them as people who were violently forced to leave their country. I felt sorry for these refugees because I have noticed that they have not experienced God. Over time, I have learned that I must pray for them so that God will open their hearts to know and experience Him. In the beginning of my experience with the refugees, I just helped to supply for some of their physical needs. The organization I was helping gave out food, medicine, and cleaning supplies. We also helped provide furniture and fuel. It was all giving and they were very welcoming. When we gave the items, we would also share the Gospel. We would tell them about Jesus, but they would just ignore our message. Still, my boss Matthew reminded me about the verse in Jams that says, “without faith, deeds are dead.” So we help them. We pray for them. We talk to them.
My translation work
When David came to visit Jordan, I had the opportunity to hear many stories from the refugees. I was moved to tears as some shared about how they had lost some friends and family. Some of them lost body parts, like their legs or hands. We heard so many sad things. When we heard these stories, we would tell them about Jesus. These people, who had came out of their countries because of the wars, listened. At this moment, I just realized that God allowed for these people to be hurt, so that they might know Him. Still, there were other people we met and they refused to listen about Jesus. All that they wanted was money, food, furniture or fuel. This could easily dishearten me, but the Holy Spirit in me encourages me to continue praying for them. I have experienced God, and I am sure He wants me to tell about Him everywhere and every time. I truly feel I am one of the luckiest people because I met David and I was able to be the interpreter for all of his interviews. I have definitely added many new words to my vocabulary, but more importantly I feel that I also grew spiritually. I learned so much about the struggle of the refugee, and I experienced true empathy. Sharing the feelings of the Syrians who were forced from their homes because of the war will change your life. (read Part 2 on Wednesday)