TRAC Stories: Tima Kurdi, finding hope in tragedy.

“Too many people had died in the war and we were still all silent,” Tima Kurdi said, “It took only one picture, of that little boy, to touch our humanity.”

Alan Kurdi was the kid that became a symbol for the Syrian refugee crisis. His photo became so viral that it is almost impossible you didn´t see it. A little 3 year-old who had drowned with his mother and brother trying to get to Europe, and that was now face down in the sand at a beach in Turkey. Dead, just as thousands of innocent people that have lost their lives as a result of the Syrian war.Alan Kurdi

Tima Kurdi, Alan´s aunt, is for us a face of a refugee crisis that is often described with faceless numbers. She is a Syrian living in Abbotsford who fled her home country on 1992. After the Syrian war started on 2011, her family fled the country, just as the other millions in a similar position. On September 3rd, 2015, she received the news that her sister in law and two nephews had drown.

Out of her pain, she found strength. She is now using her influence to speak for all the millions of victims that remain hidden in history, becoming a strong advocate for Syrian refugees. But she isn´t simply revealing the incredibly tragic stories of the war. “I´m not here today to make you feel sorry about me and my family,” she said, “I am here to plant the seed of hope.”

When we received her in the NorthWest Auditorium, the night of the 12th of February, 2017 for the event “Night of Stories” we could all experience how powerful her message was. She stressed that while we cannot avoid tragedy, we must respond to it with open arms willing to help those who are suffering. “If I couldn´t save my own family, let´s save the others,” she said.

TIMA KURDITima is very serious and extremely committed. I approached her after the event, expressing my condolences for her still vivid suffering and my admiration for her advocacy work. She thank me for the work TRAC was doing, but did not give much importance to my praise, as someone who is so committed to the people she is working for that she intentionally makes herself invisible.

Even though she has international recognition, she maintains a profile of simplicity, and just raises her voice loud and clear when it’s needed, speaking on behalf of her people. She has met with Prime Ministers, Presidents, and international leaders. She has given Ted Talks and conferences globally. However, her business card still only lists her as a hair styler, the profession she exerts in Abbotsford.

“I am not responsible for those decisions [of opening the borders to refugees], I am not a politician, but my voice was heard” she said. She is an example for most of us who tend to think that we are powerless and cannot make a difference because we are not in charge of the decision-making.

Turns out, we do have a decision: to speak up, stop being part of the silent majority, and start acting today, just as Tima did. Among other things, she created the “Alan and Ghalib Kurdi Foundation”, an organization that raises funds to provide nutritious food, medication, school supplies, and medication to children living in refugee camps.

After the event, Tima met with TRAC´s team. “Every time I tell my story is very painful,” she said in tears, “I need at least a month of recovery after I give a speech like these.” But she keeps doing it for one reason: people need to hear about these and be inspired to make a change. Tima has used her painful experience to inspire strength and hope. Let´s embrace that hope and follow her example as we respond to the global refugee crisis.

If you are eager to get involved and to hear these words from her own mouth, consider attending tomorrows fundraiser. Tima is also in need of volunteers to help her with the “Alan and Ghalib Kurdi Foundation.” To hear more about this opportunities, please email trac.twu@gmail.com

 

-Emilio Rodríguez, TRAC´s journalist.

7 things you must know about the refugee crisis

1. Why is it a “global” refugee crisis?

Although most attention is put on the Syrian refugee crisis, we as TRAC want to also emphasize that refugees are coming from all over the world. Displacement is a reality in many countries, even in the Americas. Also for this reason, TRAC has decided to sponsor a refugee family without preference to their origin.

In 2015, 53% of the world´s refugees came from three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia, in that order[1]. These are all countries suffering from brutal wars. Refugees are also coming from Sudan, Congo DR, China, Colombia, Iraq, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and others[2].

2. What is a displaced person?

The displaced are those who are forced to move from their locality or environment and occupational activities due to a number of factors that include arm conflict, natural disasters, famine, development and economic changes[3]. An unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from home according to the United Nations High Comissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)[4]. Perhaps the most alarming case is that of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), those who have not crossed an internationally recognised state border. The number of IDPs is hard to measure, they are not eligible for protection under the same international system as refugees, and don´t have a single international body entrusted with their protection and assistance.

3. What is a refugee?

A refugee is a person who is outside their own country, has a well-founded fear of persecution due to his/ her race, religion, nationality, member of a particular social group or political opinion, and is unable or unwilling to return[5] . To be considered a refugee, one must be outside their home country and be recognized under a refugee status. Among the nearly 65.3 displaced people in the world, 21.3 million of them have a refugee status, over half of whom are under the age of 18[6]. Although the refugees themselves are already a motive of concern, one must also think about the millions that are Internally Displaced and/or are not even recognized as refugees, and thus are not eligible for the same refugee protection.

*I must add that there are several shortcomings on this original definition of “refugee” taken after the 1951 convention on the Status of Refugees. These include the fact that people fleeing environmental conditions or natural disasters cannot receive refugee protection.  Regional instruments such as the “OAU convention” and the “Cartagena Declaration on Refugees” have expanded the term. For more information on the issue please visit this article from the LSE

4. Who grants the refugee status?

Governments and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCF) have the primary responsibility of determining who is considered a refugee under international, regional or national law, through a legal process called Refugee Status Determination (RSDs)[7]. In 2013, UNHCR remained responsible for implementing the RSD procedure in more than 50countries. In another 20 countries, UNHCR conducted RSDjointly with, or parallel to, the governments[8]

5. How many refugees have come to Canada?

From November 4, 2015 to January 29,, 2017 Canada has received 40,081 refugees[9]. These come under three different categories: Government Assisted Refugees account for 54% of these refugees, Privately Sponsor refugees for 36% and Blended Visa Office-referred refugees for 10%. British Columbia receives approximately 1664 refugees each year. In 2015, B.C. received refugees from 17 different countries.

6. Under what category does TRAC fall under?

Government Assisted refugees are those referred to the government by the UNHCR and supported financially by the government for up to one year. Privately Sponsored Refugees are those that are sponsored by a group of people in Canada who volunteer to help them adjust to life in Canada, which includes financial support for up to one year, and emotional and social support that goes further.

Blended Visa Office-Referred Refugee is essentially a mix of both: the UNHCR matches refugees identified for resettlement with private sponsors in Canada. The Government provides 6 months of financial support, and the private sponsors provide for other 6 months, as well as emotional and social support from the day they come to Canada. TRAC is a sponsorship group working under this category.

7. What does the Bible say about refugees?

“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God”- Leviticus 19, 33-34 (NIV).

“Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt”- Exodus 23:9

“So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty”- Malachi 3:5

These are just a few Bible verses among the many that treat the topic of the foreigner or the neighbour, and how we ought to love them. TRAC firmly believes that it is our Christian duty to care about the refugees in the world. One of the ways we show our love is by learning more about what these people are going through.

After knowing about the issues, we can pray, raise awareness, and act. Therefore, I thank you for reading through this post. Please, be encouraged to research more about this topic following the links below, and if you want to be involved and contribute, make sure to contact us. Let´s keep spreading awareness and love.

God Bless,

Emilio Rodríguez

 

 

References:

[1] UNHCR, “Figures at a glance”. http://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html

[2] Ibid.

[3] UNESCO, “Displaced person/Displacement”. http://www.unesco.org/new/en/social-and-human-sciences/themes/international-migration/glossary/displaced-person-displacement/

[4] UNHCR, “Figures at a glance”. http://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html

[5] UNHCR, “Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees” http://www.unhcr.org/protect/PROTECTION/3b66c2aa10.pdf

[6]UNHCR, “Figures at a glance”.  http://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html

[7]UNCHR, “Refugee Status Determination”. http://www.unhcr.org/refugee-status-determination.html

[8] Ibid.

[9] Government of Canada, “Refugees”. http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/refugees/welcome/milestones.asp

As Christ Loves, We Should Love

March 15 marked the 6th year anniversary of the conflict that is still raging in Syria.  Since then, there have been over 5 million people who have fled the country.  Over the years, this refugee crisis has appeared in other countries like Nigeria, South Sudan, and Somalia, among others.  Overall, about 11 million people have had to leave their homes to survive.  Thousands of these refugees die on their way to safer countries.  Many of those who have made it to safety have not been integrated into the society of their new home.

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My name is Kristen Jones and I am a second year studying Applied Linguistics.  I was oblivious to what was happening with the refugee crisis until recently.  This year, I began to pay attention to what people were saying about this world crisis and I was ashamed that I had ignored this incredibly heart-breaking problem.  As I learned more about the crisis, my heart broke more and more.

I attended Missions Fest in January and sat in on a couple of seminars that spoke about the refugee crisis.  The statistics and stories and experiences were a wake-up call that I desperately needed.  This world is hurting, and I was doing nothing.

This semester, I felt like God was gently pushing me to do more with my time.  I had a new passion to invest myself in people.  And then I heard about TRAC.  I joined the team mid-March, and have been abundantly blessed through it.  God has given me a love for people that I’ve never met, and has handed me an opportunity to help those who need it.  I have learned that as believers, it is our job to notice and care for those who are hurting.  Not just because they need it, but also because through our service they can see God’s love.  Often the best way to share the gospel with someone is through loving them.

Rather than have a specific job on the TRAC team, I fill in where I am needed.  I love listening to people and walking with them through life, and I can’t wait to do this with the refugee family that our team will be sponsoring.  I am excited to work with my team to share Christ’s love and compassion for this family.

I encourage you to continue to read about the refugee crisis.  Don’t let it be good enough for you to just know that there is one.  Learn about it and let the words of people’s stories sink in and register deep in your heart.  I implore you, if you are a Christ follower, to learn more about this issue; and when you know more, let God use you to serve those in need.  We are each called to follow Christ’s example of caring for those in need.

-Kristen Jones

A Story to Remember

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been passionate about storytelling. I love how you’re brought into another person’s life and can share their experiences and feel what they’ve felt through a well told story. Unfortunately, many stories don’t have happy endings, and I’ve been impacted by the many heartbreaking stories coming from around the world, but specifically the Middle East and Asia.

1-Burma-KWO

My first experience with a refugee crisis was when I was around 10 years old when the Karen came from Myanmar (Burma) into Canada. I didn’t really understand a lot about the situation at the time, but I was happy to help in whatever way I could. At the time, the way in which I could help best was through basketball. Once a week, we’d get a group of guys together both from Canada and Myanmar and we’d just play basketball and hang out together afterwards and talk for a bit. Knowing some of their gruesome stories made seeing us all smiling together playing basketball all the more rewarding.

When I heard the stories that Jordie (TRAC’s Director) told after coming back from the Middle East, I knew that I wanted to help share these stories and the stories of others who were passionate about the refugee crisis. I have a passion for videography and graphic design, and I’m very excited that I can use my skills for such a great cause while glorifying God.

It has been so encouraging to see the support that TRAC has gotten from everyone in and around the TWU community. And after seeing how successful the Karen community has been after such a short period of time, I’m hopeful for the family that we will be bringing in.

Thank you all for your continual prayer and support. I look forward to the day when we can look back and tell this story that is unfolding right now as a message of hope and inspiration for other refugees.

-Matt Hayashi

Hearing & Responding

As being in my first year of university, I’ve been introduced to a lot of new things over the span of these past seven months. I have especially seen the presence of Jesus in amazing ways and have grown so much deeper in my faith, one reason including how I joined TRAC as the events assistant.

During my first semester, I didn’t really know anything about the refugee crisis besides how tragic and devasting it is. I would try to think of how Jesus would respond to this and what He would do, but one day, the Lord revealed to me one passage from the Bible that blew it out of the water. In Matthew 2, when Jesus was born, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus. This is when I realized, Jesus was a refugee. A refugee defined is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. Of course, this is different from the current Syrian refugee crisis, but it answered the questions I had.

After this and on the night of the TRAC launch event, I had such an overwhelming feeling from the Lord that I needed to join. That night I had a dream I was amidst the refugee crisis and was praying for funds for a refugee family. So immediately, I got in touch with TRAC and told them I wanted to join. My heart has broken so much from this crisis, that I knew I wanted to be involved with this long-term. Ultimately to be able to help in nations at refugee camps and provide settlement to families is what my heart strives for in this crisis.

Syrian_Camp

Through my involvement in TRAC, I’ve seen the beauty of people’s hearts wanting to help something that we’re not all used to hearing about or frankly even seeing. To be attending university, living on campus, and knowing I’m safe is the greatest blessing. So greatly I want to provide others with the same and so much more to help make this difference. As TRAC continues, please pray for the millions of refugees around the world. I pray you are all touched by this and are inspired to help those who desperately are searching for safety and love.

-Celia Jardine

Trust in the Uncertainty

I am a third-year business student, who can shamelessly admit, has no clue where he is going upon completing his degree. Although this has been frustrating at times, it has left me with no other choice than to trust God with my future. My decision to be involved with TRAC and the refugee crisis came from this trust. It made me realized that life is full of uncertainty.

Will I ever see my family again? Will I be able to provide for them? Will I have a physical structure to call home tomorrow? All these questions relate to the uncertainty a refugee may feel on an every-day basis. This is how the crisis spoke to me. Not being involved almost seemed as if I was declining the emulation of the love and care God has for everyone. I believe that the comfort experienced through trusting in God must be shared. This very comfort spawns from the love that He has for us– the same love we are called to seek out and spread and the same love that does not completely remove uncertainty, but that leads us to peace through the confidence in the safekeeping of our future in His hands.

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”. God is preparing us through TRAC to do His good works. Even though we approach the summer and the following months with uncertainty, the trust everyone involved in TRAC has in God is what encourages us to keep pushing closer towards our goal. I hope that TRAC’s efforts can motivate others to keep trusting in Him, including the family we will be welcoming here.

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The image above shows a road leading into the fog. An individual standing at the very beginning of the road does not know what lies ahead. The only ones who do know are those who live beyond the fog. Similarly, the family we will sponsor is uncertain of what lies ahead. But, what the family doesn’t know is that by only the grace of God, TRAC is in the process of preparing a future for them beyond the fog of uncertainty.

-Carter Perran

Passion

I choked back tears, struggling to maintain my composure as I watched the recurring scene play out in front of me.  The kids simply couldn’t understand each other and the frustration was increasing.  One was explaining the game repeatedly in an exasperated tone and the other was trying to follow and respond in patchy English with a look of terror and embarrassment on her face.

I have been passionate about working with refugees for almost a year now, since refugee children started flooding the Surrey school system and my after school fitness programs for at-risk youth.  These sweet souls didn’t speak the same language as their peers and leaders, they didn’t have snacks when most of the other kids did, they didn’t understand any of the games or activities, they wore shorts and tank-tops in the snow; they were clearly different and it was hard.

sweet faces

Working with these kids during their first 4 months in Canada as they transitioned into a new culture and language, after experiencing such trauma transformed me and stretched me in ways I never expected.  I saw what a tangible support I could be to hurting hearts who were going through unimaginable internal and external conflict. What I didn’t realize then is that Jesus was planting a seed and preparing my heart for an undeniably passionate love.

When I heard Jordie’s vision for TRAC, I was immediately captivated by his authentic passion.  There aren’t too many things that light a fire in me more than listening to people speak with genuine love and commitment.  I saw Jesus in the faces of every picture shown in his presentation, and heard the laughter of my little Syrian friends in my head.  TRAC’s mission spoke to me and gave me the palpable way to continue to pursue growth for that seed in my heart that I had been craving.

Its so easy to feel helpless when we look at the map and see all of the pain in the world. Countries suffering from war, hurricanes, persecution, corruption, poverty… pull up any news channel and the list goes on.  However, overshadowing all of that tribulation, I see hope because I know that the Savior we serve loves redemption. No offence or suffering can exhaust the depths of His love. Our world is a beautiful mess, as overwhelming brokenness becomes whole by the grace of Jesus’ redemptive heart.  Through TRAC we desire to be Jesus’ hands and feet, playing a small part in healing brokenness in our shattered world through Christ’s power, even if it’s just the brokenness of one family.

My name is Malia Scholz, I’m a first year in Kinesiology at Trinity Western and the Volunteer Coordinator for TRAC.  This role fits my passion for the refugee crisis and for working with people perfectly.  I am so excited to see how Jesus’s vast redemption and love continues to mold hearts to love His children like He does, through TRAC.  As individuals, we are relatively insignificant pieces in this massive world, but by allowing Christ’s immeasurable power to work in our weakness we are believing that the Lord will perform healing even beyond our goals for TRAC.

-Malia