The designation “refugee” has been culturally and socially defined in ways that spark fear and promote prejudice. It has also been incorrectly grouped with the designation “immigrant.” But these cultural and social definitions and poor grouping hinder rather than help the conversation so, for this brief post, I would like us to work from the legal definition of refugee as defined by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services document Act 101(a)15P: “The term "refugee" means: any person who is outside any country of such person's nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, AND is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. (emphasis mine)” Clearly, persecution is the identifying factor of the refugee. Compassion is therefore at the heart of the answer to the question, “What should we do?”
If there is anything we learned from the Life Elective session on the refugee, it is that the Bible has something to say about the refugee. In Israel’s history the very laws about the foreigner are predicated upon Israel’s identity as foreigners in Egypt (Exodus 22:21; Leviticus 19:33-34; Deuteronomy 10:17-19). They were people without a country and neck-deep in persecution. Or consider the gospel picture of being a foreigner to God and being brought near to him in Christ (Ephesians 2:11-18). We were Gentiles excluded from God’s people, without hope, but in Christ we have been included, saved from the despair of sin, and washed in the blood.
The Bible is clear: God’s heart is filled with compassion for the foreigner without a home, whether it is geographically or spiritually, and he has gone to drastic measures to fix that. He saved his people from Egypt with his mighty and with that same mighty hand, he has saved his people from sin. Christians, out of all people, should be filled with the most compassion for the refugee crisis in our day and age. Because we should know what it feels like to be without hope and then to have hope gifted to us in Christ. So, what can we do?
- Get informed:
- Here are some creative ways to get involved: