I thought I knew the extent of the refugee crisis until I was invited to a gathering of Christian leaders to discuss how Christians can better respond. Turns out there’s a lot I didn’t know. I’m betting I’m not the only one, so here are three significant bits of info:
The numbers are staggering.
59.9 million forcibly displaced persons worldwide.
Never have so many people been recorded as being displaced, put in danger and forced to move. Globally, 1 in every 122 humans are classified as refugees, internally displaced, or seeking asylum. If we put them all in one place, they would be the 24th largest country in the world (right behind Italy.)
Half of all people displaced by political and military conflicts are children.
That’s almost 30 million kids.
Refugees possess the image of God and therefore are infinitely valuable to God.
All persons, regardless of citizenship, ethnicity, or religion, are made in God’s image. It is precisely because we bear God’s image that every human has inherent worth and that every person, regardless of nationality or any other differentiating marker, deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. Because refugees are infinitely valuable to God, they are (or should be) infinitely valuable to us.
As Christians, number three must always provide the foundation for our decision-making regarding refugees. If this truth is not enough, we would do well to recall – especially in these days after Christmas – that the Gospels tell us about Jesus as a refugee child, whose family was forced to flee to Egypt to escape the wrath of a murderous monarch.
This is not an easy issue and governments are rightfully responsible for matters of security.
But we are not the government – we are the body of Christ.
And as the body of Christ we are called to care for the hurting, embrace the stranger among us, and show the love of Jesus to those in desperate need. This is what Jesus did; he cared compassionately for the vulnerable and brought peace to those in despair.
Our calendars have moved beyond Christmas and we wind our way toward Epiphany, the season that marks the arrival of the magi to worship Jesus. With the arrival of the Magi, came the warning to Joseph to flee, to become a refugee seeking protection and safety in a foreign land.
In the midst of this dramatic human crisis, that must be the starting point for our reflection.
***Christians are coming together to address ways in which we can respond to this unprecedented crisis. Here are two links for more information:
Christian Declaration on Caring for Refugees