Since becoming CEO of World Vision, I have learned that the size and scale of conflict in the world right now is immense all around the world; in Syria, in the Congo, in Myanmar, in South Sudan. Meanwhile the chasm between the world’s most vulnerable and the most privileged is widening daily.
Just last month, I was standing in the most overcrowded refugee camp on the planet, Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh where more than a million displaced are now crammed.
There, I met a Rohingya woman, Humiara, who told me how she was forced to flee with her husband and children in the middle of the night when Myanmar soldiers came into her village and started shooting people. As they left, her husband was shot dead in front of her. The village was going up in flames around her. She ran, eventually making it to Bangladesh with her three small children.
Humiara is a new widow but she is also stateless, and homeless, and has malnourished children to care for, in an overcrowded camp where they could be preyed on by people traffickers, where hundreds of thousands of tents are packed into a geographical area smaller than the beachside suburb of Sorrento.
Humiara is one of 65 million people currently displaced around the world. More than 33 million children, right now, have no place to call home. Humiara’s story is heartbreaking.
Witnessing conditions at the camp – the crowding, the heat, the open sewage, the little dwellings pulled together from bits of plastic where rain and wind and sun get through the gaps, and hearing the stories of loss and pain -- has been hard for me.
This is suffering on a scale that I have never encountered in my life before.
But there were also beautiful moments of hope and connection. We were able to understand each other. Some of the refugees, knowing they had escaped brutal deaths at the hands of Myanmar soldiers, would say, “Thank Allah we are here.”
I am still learning how to deal with mass suffering like this. As a person who likes to see things change, my instinct is to go to practical help.
Paul says in Galations 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and fulfil the law of Christ.”
As I sat holding grief-stricken Humaria’s hand I knew that this is what Paul is referring to. World Vision founder, Bob Pierce’s prayer, was:
“Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.”
My calling as CEO is to bring together those who share our heart to bring God’s love in human form one person at a time to war torn refugee camps, to the slums of urban cities, and to seemingly intractable rural poverty, that every child might have life in all its fullness.
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Image credit: A Rohingya refugee woman waits for aid with her grandson inside their temporary shelter at a camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh September 19, 2017.