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A Pastoral Reflection on the Global Refugee Crisis

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We the undersigned, disciples of Jesus Christ serving as ministers in the Church of the Nazarene, to the churches and congregations in the USA/Canada region: Grace and Peace to you from our crucified and risen Lord. Please hear our confession, share in our concern, join in our commitment to action, and pray with us to the Lord our God:

For the times we have chosen silence over words of truth and love on behalf of our refugee brothers and sisters, we repent. For the ways we have been complicit in the oppression of others, we ask forgiveness. For the times we have sought our own safety and security rather than the way of the Cross and the well-being of our neighbors, we ask for mercy. Our silence has been deafening, our complicity in oppression has cost lives, and we have sometimes failed to faithfully represent the crucified Savior whom we worship. We ask forgiveness from our sisters and brothers, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, whose gospel we proclaim. Amen.

Sisters and brothers, we write in the midst of renewed focus on the crises facing refugee populations around the globe. These heightened risks have come variously through the actions of governments and the inaction of faith communities. The safety of some people groups has been knowingly compromised to maintain the security of a privileged few. While much debate surrounding these issues is mired in the gridlock of American politics and civil religion, we seek rather to confess Christ’s gospel, not endorse or denounce any political party or platform.

Our culture’s way of life suggests that there is never enough and we must grab everything we can to ensure our security. This vision of life leaves those who participate in it anxious, fearful, and desperate to secure their future against any threat, real or imagined. This deep-seated fear turns our brothers and sisters into “them,” “those,” and, ultimately, competitors for “limited” resources. This fear of scarcity leeches us of our true identity. In response, God calls us to the Lord’s Table where we are reminded of God’s abundant provision as pure gift. At the Table, we recognize that God provides more than enough… for you, for me, for us, and for all. And what is true at the Table is true in all of God’s creation: There is enough!

The Lord’s Table not only points to God’s provision. It reminds us of God’s character and nature and who we are in light of this revelation. When we come to the Table, we are formed again - reformed by the story of Jesus, in the Bread and the Cup, whereby we are shaped to be a sacrificially self-emptying community for the life of the world. As we receive freely at the Table, so we are to freely give, thereby entering into union with God and each other. Jesus at the Table teaches us to live like all divisions between us have ceased because at the Table we are gathered into one Body (see John 13-17). The Eucharist tears down all walls, real or imagined, and points toward the foundation of our common--redeemed--humanity: the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ.

The radical hospitality of Christ’s broken body and shed blood, the grace offered at the Table is for who would come regardless of any nationality or status. The Lord’s Table opposes the concerns of states and governments who are willing to preference some lives over others. Jesus and what Jesus embodied in the Eucharist is utterly selfless. Jesus welcoming all to the Table is the very character of God. Holy Communion is the meal meant to shape the character of God’s people, the Church. May our participation in the Eucharist allow us to practice a “memory of the future” that not only recalls the night on which our Lord was betrayed but participates presently in the future day in which God restores all of humanity to Godself and to each other.

It is not in the nature of Christian love to stipulate boundaries of acceptable risk; rather, it calls for us to be broken open and poured out for the sake of the world. May the Church follow Jesus, rejecting its own self-preservation while actively seeking the well-being of the most vulnerable in our world. May our actions welcome refugees with open arms into our homes, neighborhoods, churches, and nations. May those who have been displaced from their homes find us hospitable in sharing the resources which God has given us. May we call to account leaders and communities that huddle and lash out in fear of our hurting neighbors. May our hearts remain softened to the suffering of others and enter into their suffering alongside them as the Body of Christ. This is a call to leave behind our complacency and to actively welcome others to the Table!

Relevant Scriptural Material

Numerous passages from the Bible inform our call to corporate confession for our lack of hospitality toward our neighbors, as well as, a renewed commitment to welcome and care for the most vulnerable in our world. The selections cited below shape our understanding of the responsibilities of God’s people as caring for foreigners and outsiders in our midst.

Exodus 22:21-23: “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall not abuse any widow or orphan. If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me, I will surely heed their cry…”

Deuteronomy 10:17-19: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in Egypt.”

Zechariah 7:9-10: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.”

Matthew 25:34-40: “Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”

Mark 12:28-31: “One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Hebrews 13:1-3: “Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.”

Actions Steps & Suggested Resources

We recognize that the size and scope of some social, political, and economic issues can seem overwhelming.

Where do we begin?

How can we get involved?

Can we really contribute to a solution?

With these concerns in mind, we have compiled these action steps and suggested resources to help our faith communities more tangibly demonstrate God’s love to marginalized and displaced people.

Action Steps

  • Get to know our neighbors born outside of the United States. Learn their names. Hear their stories. Open our homes. Share a meal. Open our hearts.
  • Get to know folks from other faith communities and religious traditions. Join together with neighboring churches that assist refugees and immigrants in creative ways. Visit a mosque, a synagogue, and/or cathedral. Hug a Baptist!
  • Read books and articles written by people outside our own contexts. We have much to learn from our sisters and brothers from other countries and faith traditions. If our neighborhoods are not diverse, our reading lists certainly can be!
  • Get involved. Contact our elected officials. Meet your council members, state legislators, and members of Congress. Let them know that you pray for them and care deeply about their work on behalf of refugees and marginalized populations.
  • Find our voice. Choose a ministry or cause that resonates deeply with our passion and abilities, and share it with others. Take photos. Write a blog. Make a YouTube channel. Start a discussion group. Create spaces/forums to hear one another’s stories!
  • Network within the Church of the Nazarene. Collaborate with Nazarene churches in your city or nearby communities that engage refugees and immigrants. If you're unsure of how to start, begin by asking your District Superintendent about multicultural ministries on your district.
  • Think outside of the box. Offer English as a Second Language or U. S. Citizenship classes for your community. Organize fundraising drives to provide shoes to refugees. Apply to become a Board of Immigration Appeal Site.
  • Invest in peace. Give charitably to organizations like Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, World Relief, or Doctors without Borders that provide food, clothing, shelter, and medical relief to persons displaced by the global refugee crisis.

Suggested Resources

Hearing Others’ Stories

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