Refugees. It’s a term that strikes fear in the hearts of some, and compassion in the hearts of others.
After World War II, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) became the first international entity to develop laws to protect the rights of refugees through the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol, when 145 State parties came together and declared that never again would the international community turn its back on those forced to leave their homes when they have a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
And yet, our world is currently facing the worst refugee crisis in recorded history, surpassing those who sought refuge outside of their home countries during World War II. Currently there are over 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, and that number is rising at a rate of 1 person every 2 seconds.
Please join me over the next Sundays to explore the reasons why people today are fleeing their homes and what the Bible says about caring for those who seek refuge.
This is the most obvious reason why people flee, right? But do we really understand how many people worldwide are threatened by war? There are certainly wars that catch our attention. Syria. Yemen. South Sudan.
The Global Conflict Tracker of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations is currently tracking 26 global conflicts. However, this is not an exhaustive list of global conflicts, but merely a list that they have determined to have impact on U.S. interests. In fact, the Global Peace Index for 2018 shows only twelve countries in the entire world without violent conflicts within its borders. Twelve.
make your shade like night
at the height of noon;
hide the outcasts,
do not betray the fugitive;
let the outcasts of Moab
settle among you;
be a refuge to them
from the destroyer.
Biblical scholars disagree as to what conflict is occurring in this Oracle in Isaiah, but it is clear that the Moabites (historic enemies of the Israelites) are being driven from their homes and are in search of refuge. The message in verses 3 & 4 is also clear: God commands Israel to welcome these refugees into their community and to care for them.
John Calvin, from his commentary on Isaiah, states, “Let us therefore learn from this passage to be kind and dutiful to fugitives and exiles….no duty can be more pleasing or acceptable to God; and, on the other hand, nothing is more hateful or abominable in his sight than barbarity or cruelty. If we wish to obtain any alleviation of our calamities, let us be kind and compassionate, and not refuse assistance to the needy.”
What might showing kindness and compassion to those seeking refuge look like to you and/or your faith community today?