In my work with refugees, I hear their stories and listen to them share about the horrendous things they endured. They survive atrocities that most of us cannot imagine. Hearing their stories evokes emotions such as anger at the perpetrators, but the two emotions that are predominant are compassion and sadness. Sadness comes from empathy as I listen to their stories of loss and grief. Compassion comes from God filling my heart with love for them.
Today, August 3rd, marks the 3rd anniversary of the most recent genocide against the Yazidi people. A band of thugs forced their way into Iraq and targeted those who were from different religions for genocide. The two main targets were the Yazidi people and the Christians. Today is a sad day in that it commemorates the death and suffering of thousands of people.
In June 2016, I read a book They Say We Are Infidels by Mindy Belz. In the book she documents the atrocities Christians faced through the years including when the band of thugs came in 2014. She also shared about the Yazidi people. When I read the book, I thought about my Yazidi friends here in Lincoln and began to pray for them. As I prayed one morning, I felt a wave of compassion flood my heart and soul for the Yazidi people. It was as if Jesus was asking me to love them for him. The person who loved us so much that he gave his life for us, Jesus, was asking me to love the victims of the genocide.
In July 2016, in one of my evening classes, I had three Yazidi students. I had had Yazidi students before in my classes and enjoyed teaching them and enjoyed their friendship. But something changed for me in the summer of 2016. Since that time, I have been in their homes, I have listened to them, I have prayed for them, I have felt the love Jesus has for them. Now it is seems as if my savior Jesus, has me showing his love to they who suffered so much loss.
Visiting them in their homes, sharing with them, eating with them, and trying to help them with their new lives in America, have been wonderful experiences for me, profound and yet at times so terribly sad. I have found the Yazidi people to be fun, peace loving, family oriented, and friendly people. It is hard for me to understand why someone would seek to harm them. Such atrocities speak to the evil that can come from the hearts of people. The only response I can think of is to love my Yazidi friends and try to help them with their new lives in America.
It makes me think of Jesus in Matthew 9 where it records, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Jesus was filled with overwhelming compassion when he saw the people suffering. How can I not also be filled with compassion for my Yazidi friends who suffered so much. Compassion is the response that floods every fiber of my being when I spend time with my Yazidi friends.