Refugees welcome??

I should be happy every time I open another church bulletin or see another facebook post that says a church is considering sponsoring a refugee family.

Instead, I’m disgusted.

Really, you're merely considering it? Only now?

Your congregation is so busy running your little affinity groups and holy huddles and going on your personal enrichment “mission” trips that it took the secular newsmedia’s outraged publication of a heart-rending photo of a dead child washed up on a beach to get you to even realize there's a refugee crisis out there?!

And, so moved, you still wonder not when and how to respond but whether?

When did the church stop believing itself in some way responsible to care for people outside our own doors?

Why is the church not ashamed that it took wider culture to wake us up to a tremendous need?

(It’s not that the news hasn’t been out there. For example, my church magazine has been running articles from MCC on the dire situation in Syria since 2012. And it’s not just Syria. Africans have been perishing in increasing numbers on the Mediterranean in unsuitable boats crammed with humanity. Some of these are economic migrants, not people fleeing war or political persecution, but this desperate flight from stark income inequality and lack of opportunity should also concern those who profess to believe we all have equal value in the eyes of God.) 

Why is it not a foregone conclusion that an organized group of people who believe in hope, reconciliation and service would be able to collectively offer hospitality for at least one year – financially and emotionally – to a family escaping crisis?!

And when we finally decide maybe we do have a responsibility to do something, why are we still so very stinting in our response? We’re actually reasonably willing to cough up some money; we’re certainly willing to find some cast-offs to donate to help a refugee set up a household (whew! de-cluttering and do-goodering in one fell swoop), but ourselves? Nope, not called to do that. Churn the group through the system and provide funds for one year, then sigh in relief at having discharged a responsibility. Don’t ask me to be friends, especially not over the long term. Does our perpetual invocation of “relationship” mean nothing?

It is with a tragically unrecognized irony that we whisper self-righteously about hidden terrorists and practitioners of Islam not integrating into Canada while we fail to invite them into our lives. What an opportunity we have to demonstrate our hope in the Prince of Peace and to be transformed by learning from those whose experiences and perspectives are different from ours.

Isn’t it time we shut up our indignant claims of having done enough, stop falling for – and spreading – the rhetoric of fear and entitlement, and start being the church Christ called us to be? Church, it’s time we remember that we are witnesses to hope, hospitality and wholeness, and start living like it.

Revised Nov. 27, 2015


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