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This week three international news stories caught my attention with a common denominator that affects the lives of millions of people worldwide – a common denominator I have seen in my work with refugees.
The common denominator is corrupt rulers putting the lives of their people in peril.
When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice;
but when the wicked rule, the people groan. Proverbs 29:2
Meng Hongwei is a high-ranking Chinese Communist official who was appointed as president of Interpol in 2016. His wife reported him missing in September after he flew to China from his home in France for a business trip. Last Sunday, it was confirmed that he was taken into custody by Chinese officials due to alleged charges of accepting bribes, and subsequently he submitted a letter of resignation.
Many experts, however, believe he submitted his resignation under duress by the Chinese government and is the latest high-ranking Chinese official to be charged with not exhibiting absolute loyalty to China’s authoritarian president Xi Jinping. His arrest also highlights the ongoing human rights abuses of the government of Xi Jinping against the Chinese people. This includes the use of red notices, which are essentially international arrest warrants issued by authoritarian governments to persecute journalists and political enemies, as well as refugees who have fled China seeking international protection.
Like a roaring lion or a charging bear
is a wicked ruler over a poor people. Proverbs 28:15
The next story about the abuses of corrupt leaders that came to my attention is that of the Saudi Arabian journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, who was reportedly killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul,Turkey. Khashoggi, once a Saudi royal insider, had become more critical of the regime led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and many believe it is his criticism of Saudi royals that led to his alleged brutal murder.
While Meng Hongwei and Jamal Khashoggi are not refugees, their stories remind us of the dangers of authoritarian rulers. Even more they remind that those who flee authoritarian governments, seeking refuge in other countries, continue to be at risk for their lives.
By justice a king gives stability to the land,
but one who makes heavy extractions ruins it. Proverbs 29:4
The third story began as a hopeful story in July as Eritrea and Ethiopia brokered a peace treaty, and the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia was reopened after 20 years of conflict. However, this week we learned that since September 11, when the border officially opened, more than 10,000 people have crossed from Eritrea into Ethiopia, adding to the more than 174,000 Eritrean refugees live in Ethiopia and overwhelming refugee camps and other services.
Peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea is a positive change for which we should rejoice, but the fact of the matter is that Eritrea is still ruled by yet another authoritarian dictator, Isais Afwerki, who has held this position of power since Eritrea’s independence in 1993.
One of the human rights abuses perpetuated by Afwerki’s government is compulsory national service, often spanning not a set number of years but a lifetime appointment, for young Eritreans. Worldwide, many Eritreans who had fled their home country because of this compulsory service had hopes that the peace treaty would allow them to return to Eritrea without facing punishment. Those hopes are slowly dying, as are many Eritreans who still live in Eritrea under authoritarian rule.
Today I ask you to pray for those whose lives are at risk due to corrupt and brutal rulers and failing governments. Praying for the twenty countries listed in this article is a good start.
Today is Week Four of a five-week series of Sunday reflections on refugees and the Christian case for caring for those seeking refuge. In previous weeks we have reflected on war, persecution, and scarcity of resources.