Author: Kristyn peck, LSSNCA CEO (Photo by Katie Godowski)
The beginning of March marks Lent in the Christian calendar, the 40 days preceding Easter representing Christ’s time of temptation in the desert where he fasted and prayed leading up to his Crucifixion. In many religious traditions, the season is marked by reflection, prayer, sacrifice, and good deeds. Inspired by Jesus’s sacrifice, many Christians make a sacrifice, like giving up chocolate or alcohol, and many fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and abstain from eating meat, either throughout the Lenten season or on Fridays leading up to Easter. Lent is also a period of renewed commitment to Christian discipleship and many Christians live out their faith in action through volunteer work, charitable giving, and acts of kindness.
The 2022 Lenten season comes a week following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the largest invasion in Europe since World War II. The majority of Ukrainians practice Christianity, and this Lenten season, their sacrifices are forced as they grapple with impossible decisions to stay and fight for their country, putting their lives and those of their family at risk, or to leave their homes — and everything and everybody they know and love– to seek safety.
Following World War II, global leaders developed the 1951 Refugee Convention, which was founded to address the protection needs of the millions of persons fleeing persecution during the war. The Convention defines the term “refugee” and outlines the legal obligations of signatory States to protect them. Underlying the Convention and its 1967 Protocol is the core principle of non-refoulment, which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom. In the years following, the United States has been a global leader in the resettlement of persons fleeing violence and persecution, serving as a safe haven and beacon of hope for those who are forced to leave their homes.
Reminiscent of World War II, upwards of four million people are expected to become refugees due to this crisis, fleeing Ukraine and seeking safety in neighboring countries. At the time of this writing, according the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than half a million Ukrainian refugees have fled from their home. With the recent reopening of the refugee resettlement pipeline, which had been paused to focus on Afghan evacuees, we have yet to reach the 10,000 Europe and Central Asia refugee allotment cap, let alone the 125,000 refugee ceiling the Biden Administration put in place in October. Even if these caps are filled, there will still be millions of refugees in need of safe haven, and just as we did in 1951, it requires a global response of welcome. LSSNCA is ready to support those fleeing home to find safety, and hope they will find comfort and peace in their new communities with us if the time comes.
This Lenten season may we all hold those who are forced from their homes in our prayers and our hearts. For those who choose to participate in the practice of sacrifice, let’s do so in solidarity with the more than 84 million persons around the world who are forcibly displaced from their homes, knowing that while there is no comparison between sacrificing chocolate and the tremendous loss experienced by refugees, the act of going without brings us one step closer in understanding their plight. And in the spirit of Easter, let’s all pray for the triumph of life over death.