The world is hurting.
There’s so much brokenness and pain.
We are grieving the loss of life in the Middle East along with you, both Israeli and Palestinian.
We ache with the vulnerable.
Right now, there are more displaced people globally than ever before in the history of the world—more than 110 million individuals have been forced to flee their homes and the number is growing daily. Global instability is increasing from the Middle East to the war in Ukraine; to the ongoing conflict in Syria; to climate disasters and economic turmoil in East Africa and Latin America.
Unfortunately, many families and individuals who seek safety and refuge are not always met with open arms. The treatment of vulnerable migrants can range from compassionate and accommodating to restrictive and even inhumane depending on the host country’s policies and the political climate. This happens everywhere, including in the United States.
This global crisis is vast and displaced populations are not limited to any one region; they are found all over the world. The numbers we are seeing at the U.S. southern border, while they seem large, are only a small fraction of the overall global displacement.
Here are some key points to understand about the migration of vulnerable people around the world:
The root causes of migration are complex and interconnected. Often called “push factors,” these are some of the reasons people have made the difficult decision to leave their homes and seek safety elsewhere.
One of the primary causes of displacement is armed conflict. War, instability, gang recruitment, and widespread deadly violence push migrants from their homes. These circumstances force individuals and families to leave behind their lives, possessions, and communities in search of safety.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), after 12 years of war, Syria remains the world’s largest refugee crisis where 14 million Syrians have been forced to flee. The ongoing crisis in Ukraine has caused 8.3 million refugees to flee the country, while a further 5.4 million people remain displaced within Ukraine. Just since April the war in Sudan has displaced 4.2 million within Sudan and 1.1 million more have fled to neighboring countries.
The countries in Central America’s Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) are some of the most dangerous in the world. More than 1 million people have been uprooted from their homes in Central America due to violence, insecurity, and persecution, mainly by criminal organizations.
This brings us to another cause of displacement: Persecution. Political, religious, or ethnic persecution can drive individuals or groups out of their home countries. Discrimination, violence, and the threat to safety are powerful motivators for seeking asylum abroad.
Political instability, corruption, and lack of governance can also lead to migration as people seek a more stable and secure environment for themselves and their families. When regional governments fail to protect their most vulnerable citizens and crimes go unpunished, the vulnerability and insecurity can force people to leave their communities.
Venezuela has experienced a significant humanitarian and displacement crisis in recent years due to a combination of political, economic, and social factors. The crisis has led to more than 7.71 million Venezuelans leaving their country in search of better living conditions, safety, and access to basic services making it the largest-ever refugee crisis in Latin America.
One of the primary drivers of the crisis is Venezuela’s severe economic downturn, characterized by hyperinflation, food and medicine shortages, and collapsing infrastructure. Political instability and unrest, including a power struggle between the government and opposition forces, have further exacerbated the crisis.
With inadequate access to healthcare, food, and other necessities, many Venezuelans were forced to seek refuge in neighboring countries such as Colombia, Brazil, and Peru. However, in the past two years, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have trekked to the U.S. southern border. Many of them have traversed Mexico and Central America, including Panama’s infamous Darién Gap, to reach America.
“Venezuela’s displacement crisis is not new, it’s been going on for several years, but the desperation has reached a point that people are starting to make it up to the United States,” explains Matt Soerens, VP of Advocacy & Policy for World Relief. “The level of suffering, repression, and economic desperation is extreme.”
Poverty and Economic Insecurity
Economic inequality, extreme poverty, lack of opportunities, and food insecurity impact families’ abilities to thrive and can push them to seek a better life in other countries.
A severe food shortage in South Sudan has endangered millions of lives (due largely in part to the next push factor: climate change). There are now approximately 2.4 million South Sudanese refugees, making it the largest refugee crisis in Africa. Millions of Ethiopians are also in desperate need of humanitarian aid and protection. According to the UNHCR, in Tigray, nearly 40 percent of the population is suffering from an extreme lack of food.
Lastly, the growing impact of climate change is increasingly leading to “climate refugees.” Rising sea levels, extreme weather events such as severe floods and droughts, and resource scarcity can make regions uninhabitable, forcing residents to relocate in the face of environmental changes.
Many people in Guatemalan Mayan communities are facing food insecurity, crop damage, and heavy debts causing them to migrate, reports a team at Reuters. In the past decade, Central American countries in the so-called Dry Corridor have experienced longer droughts as well as hurricanes, leading to widespread crop damage.
These are just snapshots, of the pain, devastation, and displacement found around the globe. It is tempting to look away. But even as we stay engaged, it can feel hopeless.
What do we do about any of it?
The migration of vulnerable people worldwide is a complex issue with no simple solutions. Governments, international organizations, and civil society must work together to provide support and protection to those who are forced to leave their homes and to address the root causes of displacement.
As Christians, we know God calls us to carry each other’s burdens, so what does that look like to carry the burden of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, in Venezuela, in Sudan?
First of all, we need to be prayerful.
We Respond with Compassion.
It also means showing reverence and responding with compassion. We must educate ourselves so that we can use our voices well.
These are families that have been exposed to such evil and suffered immense trauma. They are seeking safety and looking for a place to land.
What might God be challenging you personally to do in terms of welcome?
What would it look like for you to sponsor a family that has been displaced? Right now we have the opportunity to meet the needs of the current moment by helping refugee families through private sponsor groups. Sponsoring together with friends, coworkers, or congregation members makes the work easier and can be deeply rewarding for everyone involved.
Just imagine if every church small group embarked on this journey! We can change the world by the way we welcome! (Learn more about private sponsorship of refugee families now!)
Will you be a part of world-changing welcome with us?