Last week we were all stunned and heartbroken to see the photo of the tiny Syrian toddler lying face down on the beach. Sure, we’ve all heard stories of the thousands who have drowned in their attempts to flee crises in their homelands, but the image of a little
child brings it all home quickly. For us, sitting here in our comfortable, secure homes these stories can seem so distant and remote. I ask myself often, how am I to respond to the reality that I was born in a country and time where – at least currently – I experience freedoms unlike the majority of my brothers and sisters on this planet. If I am so fortunate, what is my responsibility to others? It’s not an easy question to answer. Right now, our government doesn’t appear all that concerned about the refugee crisis elsewhere; we have political candidates planning to build walls to keep out immigrants from our global neighborhood. Why should we concern ourselves with those halfway around the world? This begs the age-old question then: “Who is my neighbor?” If we’re serious about Jesus’ words, we know the answer.
I have found that reading something “inspirational” before bed helps to direct my bedtime prayers. I don’t mean that to sound corny or trite because, for me, this has made an enormous difference in my life. Anyway, I’m currently reading through a series that I love by Penelope Wilcox. I’m in the fourth book, The Hardest Thing to Do, and in last night’s selection, the Novice Master of Alcuin Abbey challenged his brothers to change their focus. They should not be looking at the difficult individual with all his issues, or the needs of the community to protect itself, but to focus on Jesus and let him guide their decisions. That sounds so simplistic, doesn’t it? You might be asking: “Doesn’t she see how complex the issues are?” Well, yes, I do, indeed. But, I need to rely on Scripture because otherwise everything seems out of control.
Let me get to the point – My question then is: “If I am looking to Jesus, what does he ask me to do?” It’s not about protecting our borders, or finding those that abuse the system, it’s about serving the “least of these” assured that what we do for others, we do for and to Jesus. It is all about loving our neighbors however far they might be. So, what can we do?
Let me direct your attention once again to our colleagues with Episcopal Migration Ministries: http://www.episcopalmigrationministries.org/
On Tuesday of this week, the Episcopal Migration Ministries Facebook page offered three things you and I can do in support of the refuges:
- Volunteer with one of our local resettlement partners to welcome new Americans: http://bit.ly/EMMpartners
- Join the #RefugeesWelcome global social media campaign urging governments to welcome refugees to their countries.
- Sign the White House petition asking the President and the government to pledge to resettle increasing numbers of Syrian refugees: http://1.usa.gov/1L6zh9l.
You can also contribute to their affiliate offices locally http://www.episcopalmigrationministries.org/where_we_work/emm_affiliate_network_map.aspx through the Lutheran Social Services at Lutheran Social Service, PO BOX 674855, Detroit, MI 48267-4855.
This week the Episcopal News Service reported on the response of some from our Anglian Communion who gathered at the Keleti International Train Station in Budapest, Hungary, to distribute aid packages containing fruit, protein bars, water, and toiletries to the refugees stuck there waiting for transportation to Germany. Some 25-30 members of Saint Margaret’s Anglican Episcopal Church, Budapest gathered at the station to share their enthusiasm and willingness to help, although they recognized that this is only a tiny part of the help that’s needed.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby addressed the House of Lords where he questioned the government’s commitment to offer asylum to 20,000 refugees this year, saying this is a tiny and inadequate response in relation to the figures projected and the great needs arising in the European Union.
The bishops of the Church of Wales also issued a statement declaring:
We recognize that the situation is complex and that there is no one easy answer to this situation. We believe nonetheless that any and all responses should be characterized first by compassion and mercy; that efforts need to be redoubled to secure peace and justice in the troubled parts of the world, and that a generous but sustainable welcome must be offered to those most in need who seek a secure future among the prosperous nations of Europe.
Here’s the link to the article from ENS – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2015/09/08/on-the-front-line-of-the-refugee-crisis-in-hungary-elsewhere/
At General Convention this summer, we adopted Resolution D074 Temporary Protective Status for Immigrants at Risk. While not specifically written for the Syrian refugee crisis, the second resolve refers to all refugees;
Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the General Convention of The Episcopal Church welcome and affirm the bipartisan initiative of Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Robert Dold (R-IL), Juan Vargas (D-CA), David Valadao (R-CA), and Joaquin Castro (D-TX), urging President Obama to immediately extend Temporary Protective Status (TPS) to Guatemalans living in the United States with the hope of creating a path to citizenship for this group; and be it further
Resolved, That The Episcopal Church advocate through education, communication, and representation before legislative authorities for TPS for all immigrants fleeing for refuge from violence, environmental disaster, economic devastation, or cultural abuse or other forms of abuse; and be it further
Resolved, That this resolution be communicated to the President of the United States and to the members of Congress of the United States.
Have you thought to initiate a letter-writing campaign in your congregation in support of aid to the refugees experiencing violence and conflict in their homelands? Might you consider some local fund-raising effort to donate to Episcopal Migration Ministries? Could you raise awareness with a church family meal of refugee camp food (rice or bulgur wheat, beans, a little oil and salt? Share with us your ideas so that together we can make a difference because these are, indeed, our neighbors.
The immensity of this problem came rushing back to me a few moments ago when I walked into the faculty office building here on campus. Here were two students discussing the “problem of refugees.” The young man was adamant: “We marked a line and if you cross it, you will get hurt. It’s that simple.” His companion replied: “of course. If they don’t recognize this soon, it will destroy their country (speaking of Hungary). What don’t they see?” It’s true – if we hold tightly to justice and overlook mercy, the answer seems simple enough. But that doesn’t seem to be the way I read the Gospel. How about you?
Let us pray –
Almighty and merciful God,
whose Son became a refugee
and had no place to call his own;
look with mercy on those who today
are fleeing from danger,
homeless and hungry.
Bless those who work to bring them relief;
inspire generosity and compassion in all our hearts;
and guide the nations of the world towards that day
when all will rejoice in your Kingdom of justice and of peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.