Refugee care is an issue Christians should address. I talk about it a lot here on the website, and with due reason. It is important. So, I like to keep it in front of regular readers. We need to be able to speak clearly and winsomely about the importance for Christian involvement in this global displacement crisis.
That said, this topic can be a touchy subject right now. With the ease of access to news by being constantly connected to social media, there is not a day that goes by without a new report of something terrible happening in the world. It seems, in the US at least, that an unhealthy nationalism is brewing in certain quarters. Now, let me be clear, I am not talking about simple patriotism that loves America, is thankful for our country, and desires her well-being. I have lived in other countries and it only made me more thankful for the freedoms we possess in America. I would class myself as a patriot. I am speaking of an unhelpful nationalism that thinks the only way to demonstrate care for America is by becoming isolationist and walling ourselves off from the rest of the world. Not only is that naive (because it cannot and will not work), but for Christians, it also runs contrary to the very commission given by Christ to his church to reach the nations. Immigration policy aside, Christians have a higher citizenship with which to concern themselves. Even if the US becomes “Fort America” and walls itself off from the world, the Kingdom of Heaven opens its arms wide to the peoples of the world, and we are the ones instructed by Jesus to do the inviting.
Ironically, much of the rhetoric now surrounding the issue of refugees wants to paint those victims running from the same people we fear as the enemies themselves. For the discerning Christian what is needed is a close look at the details, so that they can be both wise in the ways they consider safety in the light of terrorism and still be compassionate to those who needs mercy and the gospel. Truth is, refugees need a voice, and the church can be that voice. Here are some points to share when discussing this with others.
The issue is worse than ever.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, we are living in unprecedented times. Never before in recorded history has there been such widespread displacement. Displacement means that people have been forced from their homes into places unknown. These people may be be internally displaced (forced to a new place in their own country), or they may be true refugees (people that have been forced out of their country in search of a new one). At last count, there are now 65.3 million people in the world who have been forced out of their home. Of that gigantic number, some 21.3 million of them are actually refugees in search of a new country.
The Bible is clear the church should be concerned (and actually do something).
Try, for just a moment, to imagine the shock to your family of having to run from your home never to return. Try, if you can, to empathize with men, women, and children who have no option but to leave the life they have built behind. I cannot identify with it, and I imagine most of you cannot either. Nevertheless, I can react with the same compassion that Christ demonstrates in the gospel. Paul writes, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:3-7).
The church has a responsibility to be concerned for refugees. The Bible is replete with concern for the marginalized. The fatherless, the widow, and the foreigner (read that refugee) are to be a constant target of our mercy. And this mercy must not simply equal activism. We are called to more than changing our profile picture on Facebook. Being a neighbor means bandaging wounds (Luke 10). So, for the discerning Christian trying to wrap their mind around mercy to refugees, this question rings out: “Whose wounds have you bandaged?” There are many ways for your church, for you personally, to be involved. Refugee resettlement agencies exist in many cities that can aid your church in welcoming those wounded by war and persecution. In addition, there is much to be done overseas. Millions overseas patiently wait in cramped refugee camps, hoping for a day when they can start life again with a new home.
Two resources to be informed and inform others
Below are a couple of resources that I find particularly helpful when addressing this topic with people. Facts are our friends. Unfortunately, it is getting harder today to wade through the partisan advertisements and propaganda that disguises itself as news.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) - Figures at a Glance
The “Figures at a Glance” page at the UNHCR page is a great place to start when trying to understand the scope and impact of global displacement. In addition, there are lots of pretty graphics that make the info easy on the eyes. Start at this page and dig around a bit on the other links. Lots to peruse here.
“What does it mean to be a refugee?” - TED Talk
Shout out to Justin Long for tweeting this yesterday. I had not seen this video prior to his tweet, but it is really helpful. It is professionally done, the facts are straight, and it speaks in plain language about refugees and their plight. I would encourage you to pass this one around.