Noozhawk: “Karen Telleen-Lawton: St. Nick’s Example”
The following is an excerpt from an article posted in the Noozhawk in December 2018:
“The rotund Santa Claus we know and love is a fitting mascot for the bloated Christmas traditions we have developed over the last century or so.
Santa Claus evolved from Saint Nick: an early Christian bishop named Nicholas, whose saint day is celebrated on the first Sunday in December. Nicholas of Myra was known for helping needy children.
St. Nicholas Day has progressed in many churches into a time to support the neediest children. These are refugees and migrants facing difficult conditions around the world. Indeed, synagogues, churches and mosques have been instrumental in aiding refugees for millennia.
Guided by Jewish values and history, HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) protects vulnerable refugees, advocates for their protection, and assures that displaced people are treated with dignity.
Having helped millions of Jews escape persecution since 1887, HIAS expanded in 2002 to address the modern refugee crisis. The HIAS website describes this connection:
“Hatred, bigotry, and xenophobia must be expressly prohibited in domestic and international law and that the right of persecuted people to seek and enjoy refugee status must be maintained.”
HIAS recognizes the right to refuge as a universal human right, and is dedicated to providing “welcome, safety, and freedom to refugees of all faiths and ethnicities from all over the world.”
Muslims recognize the imperative to care for refugees. Islamic Relief USA is one of a many aid organizations founded by Muslims. IRUSA began in 1994, bringing humanitarian aid to the people of Bosnia. Their first U.S. relief was the following year, following the Oklahoma City bombing.
“Refugees leave their homes and their entire livelihoods behind because not doing so isn’t an option,” their website explains. “They don’t ask to leave; the decision is forced. They didn’t ask to be refugees.”
The United Nation’s High Commission (UNHCR) for Refugees is the secular organization charged with providing for refugees worldwide. The UN program began as a response to World War II, with the intent of disbanding within a few years.
Sixty years later UNHCR, along with religious and secular NGOs, are dealing with more than 65 million refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people. Nearly half of these are children.
As we seek solutions for our nearby refugee crisis at the Mexican border, our vision must be for the long term. Though migration into the United States has slowed in recent years, climate change will increase the scarcity of natural resources such as water and arable land.
Desperate attempts to provide for their families will create millions of new refugees from families who would rather remain in their homelands.
What will become of them?
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, bishop of the California-Nevada Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, is optimistic: “I have never met a more tenacious and hopeful people than refugees. They face incredible obstacles in their efforts to survive, yet they journey forth in search of abundant life. We would all do well to value life so deeply.”
Refugees are America’s most important resource. They are the “tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free” that Emma Lazarus commemorated in her famous poem on the Statue of Liberty.
May we look to Lady Liberty and St. Nicholas’ as examples in providing for these ‘tenacious and hopeful people.’”