In the past couple of days, the Telegraph and Guardian have both reported on how 10,000 Icelanders (the country has a total population of 300,000) have responded to a Facebook campaign by author Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir to urge the government to take in more Syrian refugees. Bjorgvinsdottir started the site in response to the government’s offer to take in a mere 50 refugees.
The striking aspect of this story is not only the number of Icelanders expressing their support but that they are also volunteering to personally help the refugees by donating services, time, clothes, money, furniture, children’s toys and even their homes.
It makes me wonder what it might look like if churches, communities and cities around the U.S. started to talk about pooling our resources and offering to support groups of refugees in our own country. Perhaps some members could offer one of their rental homes for free for a year. Maybe others could offer jobs. Doctor offices could offer a list of pro-bono services. Churches and mosques could offer furniture, clothing and food. Teachers could offer language training. Local social agencies and organizations could link together and coordinate to provide services.
The possibilities of ways we could come together to embrace refugees into our communities is endless. I’m not suggesting that there aren’t major hurdles and challenges that would be faced–or dismissing the fact that very few communities are doing these things already for those already suffering and in deep need in their community. But perhaps this is not only an opportunity to tug at the edges of the largest humanitarian crisis in four decades but also move our communities in a direction that would benefit its own members as well.
When people ask me what can be done in the face of such overwhelming need, suffering and turmoil, I often wish I could think more like Jesus. In the gospels, his responses are clever, creative, resourceful and outside-the-box—he often seems to find a third way, a way different than what we expect or one we hadn’t even conceived.
The response of the Icelanders reminds me of that; maybe we should consider something like that, too.