Middle East (MNN) – The refugee crisis has been so discussed, so dissected, and so politicized that the real subject behind the issue is often forgotten. More specifically, we have forgotten that refugees are more than just victims of war and violence.
Tent Schools International is one group face-to-face with refugees every day. And as they work to meet the various needs of people who have fled dangerous situations at home, they begin to learn their stories.
Dale Dieleman of Tent Schools International says internationally, the attitude has been “looking at refugees only as people who are looking for a handout or are looking for an escape or [are] sitting in camps and [have] nothing.”
There’s another attitude: fear. How will accepting refugees into our country change our lives?
It’s time to address these attitudes towards refugees, Dieleman says, and “look at them in terms of who they are as people, their former lives before they [became] refugees, and also the great potential that they offer the world if we would simply take a look at what their talents and skills are and look at them from a holistic perspective.”
One of these aspects was recently brought to light in a study done by Talent Beyond Boundaries.
Dieleman explains, “They conducted a study between July 12 and August 15 of this year in Lebanon and Jordan, interviewing refugees of all [nationalities]—mostly Syrian but also from other countries, Iran, Iraq, etc. And they were able to collect out of thousands of interviews over 9,685 profiles during that time.
“And in those profiles people have indicated what their educational levels are, what their professional experience has been before having to flee their homes and countries.”
Many of the interviewees had post-secondary education. Because of the tendency to only view refugees as victims, we might find the results surprising. Instead of a doctor, we see a broken man with nothing. Instead of a professor, we see a woman who survived but is still struggling to keep her family alive. We see need without potential.
Among the people the group interviewed, they found “engineers, business administrators, educators, information technology experts, people who are experts in law, accounting, languages, computer science. Over 80%, for example, of these professional level people have some level of proficiency, either professional or functional… in English,” Dieleman says.
And just as they were an asset in their home country, they will have a lot to offer whatever society they become a part of going forward. For now, their lives have been put on hold.
“I was really struck by these findings particularly because it is high time … that we take a new look at the contributions that refugees can make in whatever host country that they are led to. And I think within our country, we need to take a closer look at the potential that refugees can have when they do come here.”
Some nations have already caught on to this idea and are finding ways to integrate refugees into their society.
Dieleman says the study also pointed out that a large portion, 40 percent, of employers worldwide are having trouble filling professional positions with qualified people.
But even more than someone with something to offer, Dieleman reminds followers of Christ that these people are valuable simply because of who created them.
“I think we just need to see that refugees are children of God who have all kinds of talents, backgrounds, families, educational levels, who we really need to help our country, not only the USA but other countries as well. And by doing so, we are giving them an opportunity to use their talents, their abilities, their God-given experience, and talents that they have so that they can, again, contribute to society in a way that is meaningful to them [and] brings more hope and meaning in their life.”
There are a number of ways you can plug into this story. One of the ways is to walk with Tent Schools as they meet the changing needs of these people and make sure they’re helping for the future.
Tent Schools International is helping by providing education wherever children are. They also help to connect families with technology and technology training. Additionally, they’re working with partners who are resettling refugees to help provide them with the technological tools they might need to get a jumpstart at starting their life over again. Not only are they helping the next generation see the potential for their futures, but they’re helping the world see the God-given value these people have.
“I think in that way we are also reaching out in Jesus’ name, compassionately, to see and to help people … realize their full potentials. In that way, they will see God in us.”