Thursday, November 19, 2015

Comments on the Refugee Crisis

Here are some of the better comments I have come across regarding how Christians should respond to the refugee crisis:

  • Chuck Gutenson (who has an excellent video series on "The Order of Salvation" at Seedbed) writes (bold mine):
    I can understand folks who are not followers of Jesus saying, "I'm all about protecting me and mine, and I do not want any Syrian refugees allowed into the US no matter how small the risk." I can understand a new follower of Jesus saying they had not yet studied Scripture enough to have an informed position. What I cannot understand are longtime followers of Jesus who are opposed to receiving these refugees. Not after Scripture tells us to welcome the stranger, love our enemies, be prepared to lose everything for the sake of the Gospel (Those who save their lives will lose it, and....), and Jesus himself models the ultimate love "while we were still hostile to God." No, I cannot understand seems as if our sense of entitlement to safety has overtaken our sense of obedience to the Gospel.

  • Scott Fritzsche, one of the contributors at Unsettled Christianity, shares the UNHCR dialogue, "Christian Perspectives on Caring For Regugees and the Displaced" (bold mine):
    1. For Christians, the call to respond to the needs of migrants, refugees, and those fleeing persecution and seeking asylum is not ideologically based - it is biblically mandated.  
    2. The Exodus from slavery to freedom became the linchpin of Hebrew identity. From generation to generation, and in the present day, the memory of the Exodus is kept alive in both the Jewish and Christian traditions, not as ancient history but as our history, our story (Cf. Exodus 3:7-8, Deuteronomy 6:20-21, 23-25). The laws of Israel’s God show a “preferential option” for the stranger, the alien, the poor and defenseless. “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19). Since the plight of the dispossessed matters to God, it must matter to God’s people.  
    3. The foundational event in the history of Christians is the Christ event: the incarnation, life, teaching, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Through the Christ event, we see God and know who we are and what we are called to do. Jesus was a Jew; he shared the passion for justice and concern for the stranger found in the Hebrew Bible. Jesus’ story is the story of welcome, of inclusion, of service both to citizens and to the strangers in their midst, particularly those who were considered outsiders. Jesus told his followers that when they fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, and visited the sick and those in prison, they were doing it to him. When they failed to do those things, they failed to serve him (Matthew 25:31-45).

  • Christianity Today posts “Love the Refugee With the Compassion Christ Has Shown You”, from World Vision's Richard Sterns:
    In the U.S. a number of leaders have suggested that we should only accept Syrian Christians as refugees and keep Muslim Syrian refugees out of the country. This is the opposite of how Jesus called his followers to act. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,” Jesus said. (Luke 6:27, 32) Syrian refugees, of course, are not our enemies. They do not hate us. But even if we thought they were, Jesus tells us to love them. 
    Jesus’ command goes against our instincts. We want to protect ourselves from those who might hurt us. In order to do so we may be willing to withhold our compassion from those who need it most. Yet Jesus calls us to a very different way. He asks us to love our neighbors—regardless if there may be enemies among them. 
    The four million refugees who have fled Syria are among the most love-starved people in the world. They have been forced to flee their homes. They have left family members behind, often in graves. They have left their communities. They have nothing, and where ever they go no one wants them. In Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and most places in the West, many Syrian refugees are mostly unwanted. What a testimony it would be if the church embraced them with open arms.

And here are a few older articles:

  • In Canada, part of the exodus of Christians away from the Conservative Party during October’s national election was the result of their refugee policy.  I hope Christians in the USA will follow our lead:
The Conservative party’s about-face on the Syrian refugee crisis may not be enough to ease the minds of Christian voters disenchanted with the government’s erstwhile reluctance to make Canada more welcoming to people in need.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s oft-repeated pledge to allow 10,000 refugees into the country over four years did not always sit right with voters stereotypically believed to be at the core of his support base.
Saturday’s announcement that regulations would be relaxed in a bid to allow thousands of refugees into Canada by the end of the year appeared to do little to ease their concerns.
Ryan Dueck, pastor of a Mennonite church in Lethbridge, Alta., believes many will feel the gesture offers too little too late. He noted that Immigration Minister Chris Alexander continued to place security concerns ahead of humanitarian ones, prompting him to view the mid-campaign pledge with a degree of skepticism.

If it is true, if Muslim refugees are feeling compelled to convert just to survive, it breaks my heart.
Not least of all because convert or die is the same situation countless Christians face in ISIS-controlled areas of Syria and Iraq.
And not because I don’t want to see people “come to Jesus.”
It breaks my heart because if that indeed is the situation, then we as the Church – whether in word or deed, intentionally or not – have presented to the world the message that we’re more likely and more willing to help other Christians than anyone else, particularly Muslims.
And that is not the way of Jesus.
There should never ever ever be any prerequisite for Christians helping others and there should never ever ever be anything we ever say or do that would make non-Christians ever think we’re less likely to help them in their time of need if they’re not one of us.
If we’re not willing to help our neighbors in need regardless of who they are and without precondition, then we’ve completely abandoned the way of Jesus.
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that – Luke 6:32
To be clear, I don’t think churches in Germany have put up signs on their front doors saying “Only Christian Refugees Allowed,” but it seems we’ve obviously done something as a Church – collectively and universally, not just in Germany, but also and especially in America – to present the message to non-Christians that we’re more likely to help those in need if they’re already one of us – or if they’ll let us make them one of us.
Whether intentionally or not, if that is the message the Church has sent to the rest of the world – that we’re more willing to love and serve ourselves than we are to love and serve others, especially if those “others” are Muslim – then God forgive us.
I hope this isn’t the case.

For years our politicians have piggy-backed upon Christian morality for electoral advantage. We should “feel proud that this is a Christian country”, said Cameron earlier this year (pre-election, of course), in what some might uncharitably see as a call to maintain a Muslim-free view from his Cotswold village. But there is no respectable Christian argument for fortress Europe, surrounded by a new iron curtain of razor wire to keep poor, dark-skinned people out. Indeed, the moral framework that our prime minister so frequently references – and to which he claims some sort of vague allegiance – is crystal clear about the absolute priority of our obligation to refugees. For the moral imagination of the Hebrew scriptures was determined by a battered refugee people, fleeing political oppression in north Africa, and seeking a new life for themselves safe from violence and poverty. Time and again, the books of the Hebrew scriptures remind its readers not to forget that they too were once in this situation and their ethics must be structured around practical help driven by fellow-feeling.

The Passover, first celebrated as a last-minute preparation before leaving Egypt (unleavened bread as there wasn’t time for it to rise) – and the Christian Eucharist that was built on top of it – is nothing less than a call to re-live this basic human solidarity in the face of existential fear and uncertainty. And when the author of Matthew’s gospel describes Jesus as a child refugee, fleeing his country from a despotic ruler intent on taking his life – Herod not Assad – he is deliberately sampling that basic foundational [...] Exodus.

How you can Help

If you are interested in helping refugees, here are four organizations I encourage you to check out:

Imagine what a powerful witness it would be to the Muslim world if every western church obeyed the Lord Jesus' command to “welcome the stranger” by sponsoring a refugee family!

I'll finish with two tweets from Brian Zahnd:
"To have a heart that breaks for the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the stranger, is part of Christ-likeness."    
"Jesus was crucified by foreign invaders using terror tactics. His response? 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'"

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