By Thomas Moran | Staff Writer
Baylor Interdisciplinary Core Professor Dr. Lynn Tatum presented to a group of students about the importance of understanding a foreign situation before trying to help out within the context of the current refugee crisis in the Middle East. The event was hosted by Baylor United for UNICEF.
Tatum’s work on a broad range of topics has been published on various platforms. He has received awards from notable organizations like the Institute of Archaeology, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations and the Southwest Commission on Religion.
The intimate presentation allowed students to ask pressing questions and engage with Tatum’s thoughts. Fort Worth senior Julieth Reyes is a part of Baylor United for UNICEF and she helped to lead the presentation.
In Reyes’ view, it can be counter productive to try to help a country without having a deep understanding of that country’s history, its current political climate and its cultural identity.
“A big reason why we want people to not just go abroad to countries to try to help is because America’s history is rows upon rows of us going to help countries with pure intent …, but we always go in with ulterior motives and not fully knowledgeable of all the culture and history of those countries,” Reyes said. “It’s happened not just in Syria, but it has happened all over Latin America and everywhere that we have gone to help.”
Tatum’s primary message was a call to the students to become more understanding about the complexities of the conflict in the Middle East. Though Tatum simplified the foreign situation for the attendees, he explained that there are countless dynamics impacting the current social and political climate in the Middle East involving a huge number of involved groups.
“There are about a dozen different axes that you need to see to understand what is going on there,” Tatum said. “You’ve got dictatorship versus freedom. The young demonstrators versus dictatorships. You’ve got Russia versus the west. You’ve got ISIL versus everyone. You’ve got Shi’ite versus Sunni.”
Tatum made it clear that the presentation was nonpartisan and that to view the situation strictly through a democratic or republican lens might minimize the complexity of it.
Tatum addressed the ethical challenge facing Christians with regards to conflict in the middle east and referred to a biblical quote to offer perspective.
“I was hungry and you fed me,” Tatum said. “I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was naked and you clothed me. I was a refugee and you took me in.”