Darfur Refugee Camps and the Challenge of Christmas
People living in the permanent temporariness of refugee camps in Darfur of the western part of Sudan in Africa challenge the world to figure out how we will create conditions so that all people can thrive. The people of Darfur are caught in the midst of a perfect storm of disruption that will likely not be the last of our generation. Drought caused by climate changed has accentuated political tensions caused by access to oil and mineral resources to create violence that has killed many and forced hundreds of thousands into refugee camps in order to survive. Begun in 2004, this overt violence has reached into its second decade with no clear end in sight. Life in a refugee camp changes as it moves from a temporary safe haven to a permanent way to survive.
The United Church of Christ is part of a global coalition of church humanitarian work still active in refugee camps of Darfur. People have access to water, food, shelter, sanitation, psycho-social support, conflict reconciliation techniques through this continuing presence. Even while secular non-governmental organizations have shifted their attention elsewhere, seeing no end in sight for Darfur, these churches have decided to stay. Darfur de facto becomes a test case for the world. Will we forget and move on? Will refugee camps persist into permanent places of survival? Or will we figure out how to transform forced uprootedness from temporary surviving into permanent thriving.
On this Christmas Eve, Christians are challenged by Jesus’ birth in the same transformation from surviving to thriving. Jesus was born in the most temporary of conditions – in a stable meant for animals during the politically forced travels of his family. The conditions of his birth were only a prelude to the permanent temporariness of his life and ministry that followed. Yet, there is more to the events of that birth than meet the eye. Christians celebrate that both the lowest of classes, the shepherds, and the ruling intelligentsia recognized in this birth, the breaking in of God’s new way into that world of temporary surviving. God’s breaking into that situation of seeming permanent temporariness created something new – the reality of God’s abundance for all. The birth of Christ challenges us as Christians to go out of our way to impact the world so that people in Darfur or elsewhere are no longer living in a temporary stable, but in that abundance of life in this world that God makes real.
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