What this Mormon campaign for refugees can teach us all about faith.

Few issues in the past year have been as polarizing as the Syrian refugee crisis.

Millions of people displaced by the Syrian civil war have been traveling to the European Union seeking asylum. In some countries, they were welcomed with open arms and recognized as helpless victims of political turmoil happening in their homelands. In other countries, they are treated, essentially, as ISIS until proven otherwise.


Thousands of migrants and refugees, stranded by the Balkan border blockade, have set up a makeshift camp in Idomeni, Greece. Photo by Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images.

After the terrorist attacks in France, Muslim refugees who had barely just arrived immediately faced the stigma of terrorism unfairly attached to their religion. After the attack at the Brussels airport, leading GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump doubled down on his infamous call to ban Muslims from entering the United States for fear that Islamic terrorism would cross our borders and threaten our security.

Muslims all over the world face prejudice and political turmoil simply for being Muslim, which is difficult even if you're not desperately fleeing from your home country.

In America, the Mormon church is making a dedicated effort to welcome refugees with kindness and compassion.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (also known as Mormonism) was founded in the 1800s with the belief that it was a restoration of the original church of Jesus Christ. There are over 15 million Mormons and the church is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States.

Mormons believe, more than anything, in sticking to the exact teachings of Jesus Christ, which mostly involved things like being kind to other people and having empathy for strangers. Teachings that — when it comes to the treatment and rejection of Muslim refugees — often seem to get ironically lost.

Through a new campaign called I Was a Stranger, the church is encouraging Mormons to help refugees get settled in their new neighborhoods.

"Look around your neighborhood, school, workplace, andother places you frequent for those who might need your help and love," say the campaign's guiding principles. After all, in the Bible, according to the Gospel of St. Matthew, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in."

The I Was a Stranger initiative asks Mormon women (due to their more traditional roles in Mormon communities) to simply offer what they can, whether it be a meal, a place to stay, or even a simple act of friendship. The campaign encourages LDS members to have empathy for the difficult journey refugees take to get to their new lives, as well as for the culture shock many refugees experience, and to use that empathy to be kind and loving to refugees as they build their lives anew.

The campaign even set up a hotline in the United States for people to call and learnabout opportunities to serve refugees in their communities.


While based strongly in the teachings of Jesus, the I Was a Stranger initiative reaches across religious barriers to spread a message of hope.

Regardless of faith, when people reach out to help others and build community, that's a pretty inspiring thing. In a time when religion is often used to divide people and turn them against each other, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' decision to help all people, regardless of religion, just goes to show how religion can be used for good to make the world a better place for everyone.

A Kurdish mother and son in a refugee camp in Turkey. Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images.

At the end of the day, we all have a lot more in common with each other than we think; we all want a happy and safe life for ourselves and our families, and we all want to be treated fairly.

"Do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side."

Sounds like a Bible verse, right?

It's actually from the Quran.

More
via bfmamatalk / facebook

Where did we go wrong as a society to make women feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding in public?

No one should feel they have the right to tell a woman when, where, and how she can breastfeed. The stigma should be placed on those who have the nerve to tell a woman feeding her child to "Cover up" or to ask "Where's your modesty?"

Breasts were made to feed babies. Yes, they also have a sexual function but anyone who has the maturity of a sixth grader knows the difference between a sexual act and feeding a child.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Instagram / JLo

The Me Too movement has shed light on just how many actresses have been placed in positions that make them feel uncomfortable. Abuse of power has been all too commonplace. Some actresses have been coerced into doing something that made them uncomfortable because they felt they couldn't say no to the director. And it's not always as flagrant as Louis C.K. masturbating in front of an up-and-coming comedian, or Harvey Weinstein forcing himself on actresses in hotel rooms.

But it's important to remember that you can always firmly put your foot down and say no. While speaking at The Hollywood Reporter's annual Actress Roundtable, Jennifer Lopez opened up about her experiences with a director who behaved inappropriately. Laura Dern, Awkwafina, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong'o, and Renee Zellweger were also at the roundtable.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Life for a shelter dog, even if it's a comfortable shelter administered by the ASPCA with as many amenities as can be afforded, is still not the same as having the comfort and safety of a forever home. Professional violinist Martin Agee knows that and that's why he volunteers himself and his instrument to help.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

Believe
True
Macy's