Opening our hearts on Refugee Sunday - 14 June 2020
Due to violence, famine and persecution, there are currently an estimated 70 million displaced people in the world. Some of these have made their way to Australia, where our response during the past 20 years has mostly been to incarcerate them in prisonlike conditions or leave them in limbo living in the community, but without any government assistance or work rights. It was not always this way. Following World War 2, we welcomed many refugees to our country with open arms … and welcomed many Vietnamese refugees in the late 1970s.
It’s interesting to reflect on which biblical characters were refugees or asylum seekers. The list is long and includes Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and his entire extended family, David, Jeremiah, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah … and of course Mary, Joseph and Jesus. The contemporary causes that make people flee their homes to seek safety and shelter in other places have long been part of history and have been the lived experience of many of God’s people. Unsurprisingly, then, there are multiple calls in Scripture to care for and welcome refugees (e.g. Exod 23:9, Lev 19:34, Deut 10:17-18).
How might we live out God’s call to welcome refugees and asylum seekers in our midst? First, we must recognise that these are people, and not merely statistics, who – like us – have parents, partners and children. They did not choose to become refugees, but were usually forced to flee their homes suddenly due to threats against their lives. They are not ‘queue jumpers’ as usually there was no time or place to write their names on a list. Instead they are vulnerable people who need our welcome and support.
Our welcome may include supporting organisations like the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) who help provide food, medical needs, counselling and legal support. Our welcome may be to visit the Detention Centre in Broadmeadows and provide a little human kindness (although visits are currently suspended due to Covid19). Our welcome may include speaking to local politicians about changing our government’s harsh and cruel policies. And we can always pray for change and for compassion.
How might you offer welcome to these people?
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