The Beatitudes Project, a book, an album and a film (www.thebeatitudesproject.com), shines a spotlight on today's meek, especially those who are marginalized and displaced, including the millions of refugees fleeing war-torn areas like Syria.
The New York Times says that Assad "writes the sort of emotionally drenched music that helps people who are in crisis." As the daughter of a Syrian refugee, that label rings especially true for Assad on "I Will Be Your Home," which was inspired by families like Al Zoubi's that are escaping across borders, fleeing bombs and bullets that have devastated their homes and country.
"I have been increasingly getting into advocacy work and activism on behalf of refugees, especially Syrian refugees," shares Assad. "The world is in the greatest refugee and migrant crisis that it has ever been in in history, that we know of."
The United Nations, who declared June 20 as World Refugee Day, says that "we are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record. An unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18." And 4.9 million of these refugees are from Syria with many more Syrians displaced.
Like on the Beatitudes album, Garrard highlights the plight of Syrians in The Beatitudes Project book, Words From The Hill (An Invitation to the Unexpected), available now from NavPress. In chapter three of the book, "Meek: When Presence Is Ignored," he authors Fady Al-Hagal's story of being an immigrant to the US from Syria. Al-Hagal is now a World Relief employee who is working to help settle refugees in Nashville.
"All this family wanted was to escape violence and get on with their lives, and they are some of the 'lucky' ones, grateful that, even despite the wariness of their neighbors and potential racist backlash, they have found America to be a place of hope and opportunity, a place to build a future," writes Garrard in his book referencing Al-Hagal's story.
Two additional songs on the Beatitudes album inspired by these stories of the meek are "Heaven Is Around Us" by Garrard and acclaimed singer-songwriter John Mark McMillan and "Let My Dreams Fly" by Garrard and former America Idol contestant Terrian Bass.
In addition to the meek, The Beatitudes Project reveals a wide world of connected stories: real people from all faiths and walks of life who embody mercy, poverty, the hungry and thirsty, the mourners, the peacemakers and the pure in heart--as seen, heard and experienced through a 21st-century lens. Along with the album and book, an upcoming documentary film, View From the Hill, is currently in production.
"These upside-down Jesus announcements on a hillside by the Sea of Galilee in Matthew 5 where Jews, Greeks, Romans and people of all ethnicities were gathered are a reminder that there is another way," says Garrard, who has spent 15-years excavating these "blessings at the bottom of life."