g2It's hard to escape the refugee crisis at the moment isn't it? It's become a global issue on a massive scale. I find it interesting that the death of a little boy named Aylan Kurdi has sparked such a radical response from so many governments and people of infl uence. It's also interesting to note that most (dare I say all) of the response has come from countries with Judeo-Christian foundations!

I'm about to head off to East Africa and the Middle East. I'll be meeting partners who have been grappling with issues like this for many years. The refugee problem did not start with ISIS, it's been around in that region for years, for generations, forever. Early this year I was in Armenia and listened to the tearful stories of Christian families whose reality is one of perpetual refugee status, for generations.

One photo, the story of one little child's death has galvanised the world into action. It clearly reveals the power of "story" and the infl uence of the media.

But, I also wonder also if it exposes a lack of conviction from many of us who call ourselves Christ followers
along with a fair dose of superfi cial awareness of the Good News.

Surely, for the Christ follower, the huge, positive reaction we see at the moment to this crisis should not have to wait for the death of a child and his family.



For our reaction to be authentic it must come from our ever deepening awareness of God's character, by observing his heart for the 'alien and refugee' down through history, by the life and message of Jesus, by the example of the early church and by the nature of the Good News. I'm just wondering if it shows up the shallow nature of our core understandings about relationship with God and our role as his representatives here on earth.

I wonder if this tragedy reveals that our core Christian convictions are shaped more by the media than by a clear awareness of God's character and his purposes. If we took the Good News seriously, we would have been engaged with this and many other issues of injustice constantly, consistently and sustainably for a long time already.

A friend wrote a poem last week based on the death of Aylan Kurdi. It goes like this:

As Syria's sons run
To fi nd their place
Oppressors chase
Desperate to breathe
Water fi lls lungs
Even the sea rejects the least of these
And the shore cries for the lost children
Death isn't an escape from villains
Liberation only comes with life
Who has room for refugees?
What nation can handle their baggage with care?
Maybe the King's people will see and show mercy?

Should not this depth of response and empathy be prompted by say, the fi rst message Jesus preached – Luke 4? Or the story of Ruth, the Good Samaritan, the response of Jesus to the leper, the response of the Apostles to the plight of early Christian widows or the Apostle Paul spending ten years of his ministry raising money for the drought stricken church in Jerusalem...

What is not required from any of us is some individual, sentimental, impulsive, response to a specifi c event. May I suggest that what is required is a theologically grounded, long term, comprehensive response from all of us who understand the purposes of God?

And what could that look like?

1. Dealing with our own issues regarding an infl ux of people who are very different to us. I get the feeling that there is a fair amount of fear around this issue. We need to deal with the fear that our jobs might be taken, that our nation will change, that our community will look different, that we will no longer be part of a demographic majority.

However, we are fi rst of all citizens of God's kingdom. Our values must be shaped by his, not just by those of our nation.

2. Dealing with any amount of religious or racial discrimination lingering in our hearts. God has not lost control. In fact, as we understand how he works, we will know that he usually uses refugees to bring about positive change and renewal.

This crisis provides us with many opportunities to refl ect his character and be shaped by those he brings to us. What an exciting journey.

3. Practicing radical hospitality. We need to develop strategies for this as churches and as individuals move towards those whom God is sending.

We can take more refugees. In fact, what if every local church took a refugee family under their wing? What difference would that make to them and to us? What would we learn in the process, how different would we be?

4. Challenging the status quo and speaking up. I'm impressed by the response of many church leaders in New Zealand to the issue. We have the opportunity to speak clearly, to act strategically and exhibit the character of God in very real and dramatic ways. This could be the start of a very strategic conversation with our society and communities.

5. Seeking out effective partnerships. A few weeks ago I was with a Bright Hope World partner from Jordan. He wept for long periods as he recounted story after story of years of terribly hard work with waves of refugees from Egypt, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and now Syria; Palestinians, Kurds and many other ethnic and religious minorities. He has given his life to these people and is worn out with compassion and concern for his people.

There are amazing opportunities for long term partnerships with great people like him. People who are on the sharp edge of these global issues and who can open doors for us to get involved in appropriate, long term and sustainable ways. However, it will probably require some radical changes in our Western mind sets and the mission paradigms we are working with.

Welcome to the real world, the world of the refugee. Jesus was a refugee!

Kevin – Field Director
Bright Hope World

 

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