Monday, July 11, 2016

How will you greet those who are seeking refuge?

                Seeking Refuge sounds like it might be the title of a novel, and then you read the  subtitle: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis, and decide that this book is probably more than fiction.  And as you read you quickly come to realize that this must be true because there is no way anyone could make this up. Seeking Refuge , (Bauman, Soerens and Smeir;, Moody Publishers, 2016, is the all too true story of an ongoing crisis.
            The crisis is a global crisis and shows no signs of slowing down. It starts in one country and quickly moves to another. People on one continent are affected, and soon they move to another continent, and eventually some move to still a third continent.  Seeking Refuge is the story of 60 million people who have been forcible displaced from their home.  For many of us immigration, migration and Refugee resettlement  is a just political term, a nightmare, full of misconceptions and misperceptions. But within the pages of this book we are confronted with the harsh reality. Several harsh realities in fact.  
            There is a crisis, and we want someone else to deal with it, after all, how does it affect me, but then our cities become places of refuge and we can no longer hide from the facts.  The authors ask us to think biblically about migration: Jesus was a refugee. His family was forced to flee their homeland because of a tyrannical government ( Matthew 2:13-15). And for those who do read the Bible, there were many heroes of the faith who left their homeland and traveled to another land.  Throughout both Testaments of the Bible, there are admonitions on how to treat the alien, the stranger, the foreigner, the refugee. And it should come as no surprise to read that they are to be treated kindly and with love, while expecting them to respect the laws of the land to which they have migrated.
            Christians should be aware of and take into account the biblical perspective on forced migration. And then comes the next step. Put a human face on the story. And the stories in this book are markedly human.
            Of course when dealing with the unknown, there are fears, and the authors also address that fact, along with some ways to alleviate those fears.  Facing the fears is a first step on a wonderful journey that moves us from fear to seeing those who migrate here as good neighbors, friends and sometimes even family.
            That's on a personal level. But maybe we need more than that.  This is a global problem, a global crisis that needs to be addressed on a larger level.  In this country the President has raised the limit on the number of UN approved refugees, all of whom have been thoroughly vetted by several  Departments of our Government. The president can raise the limit, but he is not going to personally meet an additional 15, 000 refugees, get them settled, help them find their way around, teach them how to shop and bank here in the US.  So this is an excellent opportunity for the Church to get involved. You or your church can contact World Relief or (as in my case in Utah) Catholic Community Services, and learn how to be a volunteer, learn how to get involved in this rewarding endeavor.
            The authors provide several practical opportunities to  help, and then offer a word of caution. As helpful as we want to be, sometimes we have to be careful that our helping doesn't hurt. Doesn't hurt those we are trying to help, or doesn't  hurt the one helping.  It's sometimes much easier to 'do for' than to help others learn how to do for themselves, and in this process of helping, it's important that the families being helped learn how to be self sufficient rather than dependent.
            Individuals step up, the Church takes the lead, or at least a major role, and yet the global crisis continues. Why? What are the root causes and what needs to be done?  It's easy to point a finger at a hurricane, an earthquake, a corrupt government, or even a war. But those things all happen in many places and people get on with their lives. What's the root cause? Often it's injustice, it's a deliberate disregard for the poor and disenfranchised.  Earthquakes and hurricanes destroy cheaply constructed buildings - the contractor takes shortcuts to line his own pockets.  Corrupt government officials get rich off of programs  designed to help the poor. And wars are generally about wealth and power, things that the lower classes generally don't possess.  Social injustice might be the root cause, so it's important to look for solutions. And that must be done at higher levels than the local church. Elections are coming, get informed, and then vote for those who take a reasonable stance on immigration and refugee resettlement.
            My prayer is that this book would galvanize governments, churches and individuals to reach out, to the strangers among us; but more importantly that the reasons, the root causes for the problem would be addressed, and the global crisis solved  once and for all.
Five Star rating 5/5

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