The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) has just announced that there are over 65,000,000 refugees that have fled their homeland. That’s the highest number in history. Over 12,000,000 of these refugees are from one country, Syria.
At issue is not only their future, but the future of the world. How this part of our human family is received, how they are treated, and how they are accepted will determine not only what will ultimately happen to them, but exactly who we are and the values we truly espouse.
I have watched families fleeing their burning homes while dodging sniper fire. I have had the privilege to visit dozens of refugee camps and camps for the internally displaced, and have seen firsthand the fear, the anguish and the heartbreak of those driven from their homes.
In the end, it boils down to opening our arms to others in need, even as we would hope arms would be opened to our families if in the same tragic circumstances. We cannot go too far wrong just hewing as closely as possible to the Golden Rule.
I love Sufi poetry, and Rumi and Hafiz have long been favorites. I recently came across this delightful quote by Rumi and I share it now because of its timeliness in my own life.
When a man has boils or scabies,, he isn’t disgusted with himself; he puts his infected hand in his dish and he licks his fingers without any repugnance. But, if he sees a small sore on someone else’s hand he can’t swallow his food. It’s the same with moral blemishes; when you see defects such as indifference, pride, and lust in yourself, they don’t bother you; but as soon as you notice them in others, you feel hurt and resentful.
Jesus is clear in his call for those following him to treat one another just as they would want to be treated. We know it as the “Golden Rule.” Wonderfully, every major religion and faith tradition has the Golden Rule as part of their core values.
The frightening bottom line in the Christian faith is that Jesus says we will be judged exactly like we judge those around us. The measure we give is the measure we will get.
We all have our own moral warts and scabies. Before we start pointing our infected fingers at those around us we need to first clear up the blemishes in our own less-than-perfect lives.
“The problems we face today, violent conflicts, destruction of nature, poverty, hunger and so on, are human-created problems which can be resolved through human effort, understanding and the development of a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. We need to cultivate a universal responsibility for one another and the planet we share.” – 14th Dalai Lama
Every major faith tradition agrees that we are one human family. And every major faith tradition understands the necessity of treating each other as we would want to be treated. There’s a lot to be said for just living by the “Golden Rule.”
The Dalai Lama is right. Once we can come to the place where we realize our deep connectedness to one another and the earth that sustains us, we will have taken a giant leap toward healing the brokenness of the world in which we live.
I have often stated my firm belief that we can end hunger in our lifetime. And just as often I have provided reason and rationale for that belief. This morning I will do so yet again.
All it would take to eradicate the scourge of hunger forever is for people of faith to live out the teachings of those they profess to follow. Ending hunger is simply a matter of people of faith adopting lifestyles of faithfulness.
All the world’s great religions teach the same core values of love, compassion, and justice. The Golden Rule is a major tenet of all the world’s great faiths. And if those of us who profess even a modicum of spirituality would live according to the tenet of the Golden Rule we would soon have a world where hunger was nothing but an ugly memory. Hunger is a lifestyle issue.
In my book, Getting Off Our Buts: Making Mission Happen, I put it this way:
People are hungry because they are poor. The poor are powerless. They are powerless because we have no sense of community. Regardless of what we say, we do not feel or act as if we belong to one human family.
If we acted as if we belonged to one family we would not allow one child–much less 25,000 of our family–to suffer and die unnecessarily from hunger every single day.
We can end hunger in our lifetime. We just need to match the way we live with what we say we believe. Once we begin loving each other as we love ourselves we will end hunger forever simply by being the people we want to be.