Today, Sunday June 15, is World Refugee Sunday. Or, if you prefer, next Sunday, June 22. Its a day to recall that 45 million people–the population of Spain–are forcibly displaced refugees in our world today.
The Refugee Highway Partnership, in cooperation with the World Evangelical Alliance, promotes this day annually to encourage churches to pray for the world’s refugees and to make believers aware of the Bible’s teaching about our responsibilities towards strangers. Isaiah, for example, exhorted his fellow countrymen to ‘be a safe place for those on the run from the killing fields’ (16:4).
This is a task too important to leave to politicians. What role can Christians play practically both in offering shelter, clothing, food and drink to migrants, as well as urging those who have to share with those who don’t, including the southern border nations who carry the brunt of the problem?
At the State of Europe Forum in Athens last month, Kari Tassia of the RHP presented the following code of conduct drawn up by various faith leaders and faith-base organisations, including the RPH and WEA, and embraced by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
WELCOMING THE STRANGER:
AFFIRMATIONS FOR FAITH LEADERS,
A core value of my faith is to welcome the stranger, the refugee, the internally displaced, the other. I shall treat him or her as I would like to be treated. I will challenge others, even leaders in my faith community, to do the same.
Together with faith leaders, faith-based organizations and communities of conscience around the world, I affirm:
I will welcome the stranger.
My faith teaches that compassion, mercy, love and hospitality are for everyone: the native born and the foreign born, the member of my community and the newcomer.
I will remember and remind members of my community that we are all considered ‘strangers’ somewhere, that we should treat the stranger to our community as we would like to be treated, and challenge intolerance.
I will remember and remind others in my community that no one leaves his or her home land without a reason: some flee because of persecution, violence or exploitation; others due to natural disaster; yet others out of love to provide better lives for their families.
I recognize that all persons are entitled to dignity and respect as human beings. All those in my country, including the stranger, are subject to its laws, and none should be subject to hostility or discrimination.
I acknowledge that welcoming the stranger sometimes takes courage, but the joys and the hopes of doing so outweigh the risks and the challenges. I will support others who exercise courage in welcoming the stranger.
I will offer the stranger hospitality, for this brings blessings upon the community, upon my family, upon the stranger and upon me.
I will respect and honor the reality that the stranger may be of a different faith or hold beliefs different from mine or other members of my community.
I will respect the right of the stranger to practice his or her own faith freely.
I will seek to create space where he or she can freely worship.
I will speak of my own faith without demeaning or ridiculing the faith of others.
I will build bridges between the stranger and myself. Through my example, I will encourage others to do the same.
I will make an effort not only to welcome the stranger, but also to listen to him or her deeply, and to promote understanding and welcome in my community.
I will speak out for social justice for the stranger, just as I do for other members of my community.
Where I see hostility towards the stranger in my community, whether through words or deeds, I will not ignore it, but will instead endeavor to establish a dialogue and facilitate peace.
I will not keep silent when I see others, even leaders in my faith community, speaking ill of strangers, judging them without coming to know them, or when I see them being excluded, wronged or oppressed.
I will encourage my faith community to work with other faith communities and faith-based organizations to find better ways to assist the stranger.
I will welcome the stranger.
[Available online from www.refugeehighway.net/resources/ministry-resources] [For more resources for resources for use in churches and groups: www.refugeehighway.net/resources/world-refugee-sunday]
Till tomorrow, when I will send a regular ww, about hope in the city,