As college students, it is often easy to get lost in the difficulties of our own lives: dealing with exams, assignments, and student employment is enough to distract us from life outside of Bethel. We often forget that Bethel’s mission, vision, and values call us to seek out the truth, follow the teachings and example of Jesus, and to strive to be world-changers. Such a calling demands that we pay attention to the news, identify situations in which assistance is needed, and strive to do our part to help those in need.
Keeping that in mind, I would like to encourage each of you to do your own reading and research on the Syrian refugee crisis. However, if you don’t have the time for that at the moment, below is a brief overview of the situation provided by Professor Amy Poppinga:
“Did you know the world is facing the worst refugee crisis since WWII? 7.6 million Syrians are displaced within the country, and 3.8 million have sought refuge in other countries. The UNHCR’s latest figures show the crisis is getting worse. Families are moving not to simply better their lives, but to literally save their lives.”
Clearly, we, as the Bethel community, as Christians, and simply as human beings, are called to do something about this situation. But where do we even begin with such a major crisis? How can we organize ourselves and find a way to turn our concerns into tangible help? Fortunately, Bethel’s History and Political Science Departments have an idea- support the 434 Campaign.
The 434 Campaign began when History and Social Studies Education Grades 5-12 double-major, BTS minor, and current Modern Middle East student Brandon Sebey told his professor that something should be done. In his words, he “hates the idea of doing nothing when there is a problem and just couldn’t handle not doing anything.” After that, the campaign grew through discussions in Amy Poppinga’s Modern Middle East class, and has gained the support of the History Department and the Political Science Department. The campaign will last from November 2nd through November 6th, and will focus on two essential areas: awareness and action.
For the awareness portion of the campaign, we will see a visual representation of the number of refugees. 434 members of our community (or 17% of our 2500 member College of Arts and Sciences) will be wearing orange on November 4th. This is to represent the estimated 17% of Syria’s population that is currently living as external refugees. Of these 434, 43 students, staff, and faculty members will be wearing orange t-shirts. These individuals will also be carrying laminated cards with important information about the Syrian refugee crisis. I would highly recommend that you stop to talk with one of the orange t-shirt bearers.
Of course, the call to do something about this crisis does not end with awareness. Awareness must be coupled with action. The campaign’s goal is to get 434 members of our community to become involved in at least one of three ways:
- Giving $5.00 to the campaign. The campaign is partnering with World Relief, an organization active in many of the countries that are directly caring for refugees (such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Greece.)
- Signing the official petition to the White House and to our members of Congress urging the U.S. government commit to resettling 200,000 refugees in the upcoming year, to increase support for the millions of refugees and internally displaced Syrians, and to pursue peaceful ends to the conflicts that created this crisis.
- Committing to pray on a particular day of the week for the remainder of the semester. Students who make this commitment will be given a prayer card stating their day of the week and their specific prayer area, based off of the We Welcome Refugees Prayer Guide.
Please consider stopping by the 434 Campaign’s table in the Brushaber Commons on November 4th, 5th, or 6th for more information or to get involved. If you aren’t able to make it to the BC, Brandon Sebey recommends checking out the We Welcome Refugees website for more information and ideas on how to get involved. As a closing reminder, I’d like to share a short statement from Brandon that clarifies what the 434 campaign is really about:
“There is a quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer that says, ‘Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.’ I think that this quote applies quite a bit to the situation. This campaign in a call to action. I pray that it will stir something in students and faculty that will make them see the world as a place in need. It is often easy to just stay in our own little bubbles and not worry about others. It sure is the easy thing to do, but not the right thing. I think once you see how it is around the world, it is almost impossible to suppress that and not care for others in this world.”