There’s a good chunk of our Bible where refugees are the main character of the story. Israel spent a lot, and I mean a lot of time as refugees. It was during this time that God was first revealed to us when Israel was in a refugee status. Fast forward a few years God takes on human flesh (i.e. Jesus) as a refugee. Fast forward a few more years and God tells us that we are to care for refugees as he is preparing to take on death. I guess you could say that our story, the story of the church, is a story that compels us to care for refugees.
While some borders are closing, or continue to remain closed to those seeking refuge from violence, there are border that are opening and continuing to open daily. This can be taken in two ways. First, there are congregations where refugees and immigrants are being cared for. Rising Hope UMC in Alexandria, VA is one of those communities. Those seeking refuge from the cold weather find a safe place to rest at Rising Hope. These people, seeking refuge and safety, are in many cases forgotten and cast aside by our communities. Our church buildings can literally become the place where refuge is found (isn’t it supposed to be like that anyways?).
Since the ICE roundup across the street from Rising Hope UMC last week, there has been a renewed call for churches to be places of sanctuary. ICE overstepped by waiting for the men they detained to leave a church. Yes, I acknowledge the legal arguments many will make, however, waiting outside a church for someone to walk away will force many refugees and immigrants into hiding.
The second way borders are opening and continuing to open is through other nations where xenophobia and Islamophobia have not yet taken hold. What then are we, Christians feeling compelled to act, to do? Support these nations and organizations/faith communities where refugees are being cared for.
The faithful witness for the church includes protesting while at the same time calling us to support congregations in nation where refugees are being welcomed. We have not mandate from God to tell our nation and our leaders how to secure our borders. The only thing we’ve been mandated by God is to care for those who come to us. This can get us in trouble because at what point has someone come to us? Is it when they step foot on our side of the border or when they step foot inside our home or church?
So, what is the nature and role of the church in this time where refugees and immigrants are unable to find refuge? We tackled this topic and more in a recent episode of Crackers & Grape Juice. I’d love to know what you think.