World Refugee Day is a day when the UN ‘commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees.’ The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) statistics tell us that 44,400 people are forced to flee their homes because of conflict or persecution every single day. Every single day! They state that we are ‘witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record’. How do we as Christians respond to this crisis?
What does the Bible say?
The Bible has a lot to say on the treatment of ‘strangers and foreigners’. There was clear guidance on how to treat foreigners in the Old Testament Law:
“So be kind to the man from a strange country who is living among you, for you yourselves were living in a strange country in the land of Egypt.”Deuteronomy 10:19
Also the Law gave foreigners access to the same welfare systems and religious rituals as the Israelites.
What about the New Testament?
The New Testament tells us to love each other, and we do this by treating people how we’d want to be treated:
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”Luke 6:31
How would you want to be treated if you were far from home, fleeing from something terrifying? I think I’d want to be treated with respect, with kindness, with sympathy, and with care.
Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan demonstrates that nationality shouldn’t be a barrier to caring for each other. The Samaritans and Jews were not exactly close allies, but this didn’t stop the Samaritan from caring for a Jew who needed help. Like the Samaritan, let’s be unprejudiced towards those who need our help.
Where do we belong?
A lot of us are lucky enough to live peaceful lives in our ‘home’ country. So other than treating others well, how does the refugee theme apply to us?
The Bible is full of faithful people who didn’t belong to the country they lived in. Abraham left his home country and wandered in Canaan, Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt and Daniel was a prisoner of war in Babylon. But all of them were promised something better:
“All these came to their end in faith, not having had the heritage; but having seen it with delight far away, they gave witness that they were wanderers and not of the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are searching for a country for themselves.”Hebrews 11:13-14
Like those wanderers of old, we are looking for something more permanent and more joyful than what this life can offer us. We are wanderers, looking forwards to God’s Kingdom. It’s a time when God’s promises will be fulfilled, when the persecuted will be treated fairly, and when there will be ‘no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain.’ (Revelation 21:4)