What comes to your mind when you hear the word “refugee?” Do you picture a downcast, starving person huddling in a tent? Or perhaps you picture a mass of invaders-swarming American cities in their foreign clothing with their hands stretched out for welfare money? The Syrian refugee crisis, in which an estimated 9 million people have been driven out of Syria ( Source: syrianrefugees.eu) has put refugees at the center of the American mind. So have Islamic extremist-led terrorist attacks in France, Belgium, and California. The highly-politicized debate over whether or not the U.S. should take in Syrian refugees tends to paint them as dangerous Trojan horses or as victims of unimaginable suffering.
But as Allison, an author I met at a Peace of Thread show, reminded me, refugees are not monsters. Nor are they merely victims in need of charity. Refugees are people. Each refugee who comes to the United States-whether they come from Syria, Iraq, or Burma-is a person with a face and a name. Each one has a story. Each one has a family. Each one has a dream.
Peace of Thread’s mission is to help refugee women achieve their dreams and to affirm the worth of each woman who works for us. Our handbags reflect out mission. Every time a woman makes a bag, she is able to achieve her dream of providing for her family. And when our designers create a bag, they try to make the inside of the bag look better than the outside as a reminder to each woman that she is uniquely beautiful inside as well. When a customer buys a bag, he or she finds the name of the seamstress who made it inside. The name tags remind our American customers that, no matter what she may look like on the outside, each refugee is an individual made in the image of God.
The UN defines the word “refugee” as “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence” (Source: http://www.unrefugees.org/what-is-a-refugee/). Our world is filled with these terrible things and with vulnerable people fleeing from them. I don’t know what the political solution to these crises are. But I know that refugees are people-different from us and yet the same-who are worth getting to know. I invite you to come to Peace of Thread events-not just to buy a handbag-but to meet someone special who can open your eyes to the world around you and the fact that all human beings are (in the words of our website) “one of a kind.”