On Sunday I had the privilege of having dinner with some of my Yazidi friends. I always enjoy visiting them and getting to know them better. I have learned from them as much as they have learned from me. During this visit, it was an emotional time as we talked about some various things they have experienced. One of the sisters was crying and seemed to try to hide it, so I asked her to look me in the eyes as I shared with her, “You are a person. Your feelings are important because you are a person.” I had her repeat with me, I am a person. My feelings are important.
A sense of personhood and personal dignity are two important parts of our identity that are stripped away while living under oppression and trying to survive genocide. My Yazidi friends experienced something I have seen other refugees experience whether they are Burmese, Sudanese, Congolese, or any other refugee group. That is the experience of a government, terror group, or dictatorship denying fundamental human rights, killing loved ones and friends, stealing and or destroying property and personal belongings. Suffering through severe oppression leaves scars not only physically but also emotionally and psychologically.
I saw my friend again today and it was good to see her smiling, but I always want her to feel she can be open and honest about her feelings. I respect her and try to treat her with respect. My desire is for her to have a beautiful future full of love and meaning.
As a Christian, I am called upon by my Lord to bear the burdens of others. That means being a listening ear. That means showing care and concern. It also means speaking words of healing to those who have been oppressed. It makes me think of how in the bible it says of Jesus, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” For those who are bruised and battered from oppression, my desire is to be a healing influence in their lives.