She was a refugee from Syria, a beautiful young woman, dressed in black from head to toe. A patterned scarf was tied around her head and tucked into a lightweight double-breasted suit coat that skirted the floor. She spoke passionately in a language I couldn’t understand, and her young interpreter had to stop a time or two to choke back tears.
The refugee was a young mother, and she told of her struggles during her recent pregnancy in Syria. Her country was falling apart. As her time drew near, she scheduled a c-section two weeks before her baby was due—she needed to make sure the baby would not be born in the middle of the night. A night time trip to the hospital would have been too risky. When the time came for the c-section, the soldiers stopped her family on their way to the hospital. They detained her husband for no apparent reason, leaving her to deliver the baby without him.
Upon her arrival at the hospital, the warring factions were bombing the area, and her heart was racing. Because of her condition, they couldn’t give her the medicine she needed to relax, so she had to find a way to calm down without medication.
“I can do this; I can do this,” she repeated, realizing she had to be strong for the baby.
In spite of the horrific conditions, she delivered a healthy baby, and some time later the husband was released. The family returned to their home, but the situation in the area only worsened. Soldiers harassed the husband when he would venture out, until one day they beat him with sticks so severely he feared for his life. By the time the baby was 4 months old, the family decided it was safer to flee the violence than to stay in their home. They had no passports and no birth certificate for the baby, so they would have to escape across the border illegally. Their best chance to survive the journey was to race through the forest under the cover of night. It was extremely difficult to see their way through, and at certain places they had to run, or the spotlights would expose them. If caught in the spotlights, border guards would shoot them on sight. The young father carried his two-year-old son, and the nursing mother carried her four-month-old baby. It was nearly impossible to keep the children quiet during their flight, but somehow, by the grace of God, they made it. This young Syrian family is now living in the states, building a new life.
I heard this story at our most recent peace feast, and I had the privilege of hugging the young mother who had been through such trauma. She wants everyone to know about the suffering of her people. Her story reminded me of another flight by a family of refugees. They too fled under the cover of night to a neighboring country. They fled to Egypt, to save the life of their child from a murderous ruler. The child’s name was Jesus. I wonder who helped that refugee family. Who took little Jesus in and provided diapers for him and food and shelter for his mother and father until Joseph could find some carpentry work and an apartment? Mary, Joseph, and Jesus stayed in Egypt until Herod died. I wonder if the Egyptians resented Joseph coming into their country and taking their jobs? I wonder if the holy family feared being put in jail for illegal entry? Einstein once said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” I’m finding that to be true.