• GCI Auckland

Refuge for the Refugees?

On our Facebook page in the last two weeks we have been highlighting the problem in Iraq where hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced in the last few years, with a crisis point being reached more recently. There are estimates of up to 2 million people being displaced, stories of pending genocide, and threat of ethnic & religious annihilation.

There are families that have fled from violence, regulation, and oppression, and are now refugees. They seek safety for their families rather than abandoning their faith or joining the insurgents. No longer safe in their own land, they rely on the goodwill and humanitarian aid of other nations as they leave their homes and means of support behind.

But for most of us, the plight of these refugees is far away, and we may be untouched by the events in the Middle East. We can become cold and detached, due to our distance from these events. The repeated, now all too common, stories begin to fall on deaf ears. We forget too that there are refugees that seek sanctuary in New Zealand and Australia, from countries closer to home. How do we treat these refugees? Do we close our eyes and ears? Do we want to send them far away, forget they exist, or imprison them? Do we want to prevent our taxes from assisting those that come from other countries without invitation?

James Henderson writes in his blog post about refugees on "Because":

"So, how would you feel if you found a refugee as a stowaway in the back of your car? This happened this week when someone drove home to the UK from France.

How do we feel about migrants and refugees?

Some time ago I visited two churches in a refugee camp called Kakuma, located in the inhospitable far north of Kenya. In our groups there were refugees from Ethiopia, Somalia, Burundi, Rwanda and the Congo. All of them had stories of being caught up in ethnic cleansing and warfare.

According to the Bible, Jesus was once a refugee. His family fled to Egypt for fear of their lives.

Interestingly, Abraham, whom Christians regard as the father of the faithful, and from whom both Jews and Arabs claim descent, was also a migrant. When the Israelis of biblical times thought of how good life was, they were told to remember where they came from: Abraham was “a wandering Aramean” (Deuteronmy 26:5 NIV UK). An Aramean was someone from the Middle East, where there is so much fighting today. Even now many of the tribes in that area are called Aramean.

Identifying on some level with the migrants and the refugees seems to be the biblical view. After all, there but for the grace of God go we all.

It’s not a political thought, but maybe it’s a compassionate one.

I guess we could also say that, spiritually speaking, we are all refugees and aliens, and Jesus takes us home in his car!"

james.henderson@gracecom.org.uk

(photo credit: Mohammad Hannon/AP)

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