Refugees and christians


When countries are in turmoil or their people are impoverished, many choose, or are forced, to look for a better life, and so become refugees. Australia is an attractive place to seek refuge. Because we are an island nation, many refugees make the often dangerous journey by boat, and increasingly, many perish in the attempt. When they arrive, they can spend years in detention before being allowed to stay or being sent back.

I have blogged before about the political and social issues (Politicisation of asylum-seekers and Illegal immigration?). This post, I want to reflect on how christians are approaching this matter.

A political dilemma

It is difficult finding a just response to this matter. On the one hand, these people are in desperate need and we are under a UN and moral obligation to help them. Most of the world’s 15 million refugees move to an adjacent country, which is generally a developing countries, and only a small percentage seek asylum in relatively rich western countries. Among western countries, Australia doesn’t accept a large number of refugees per capita.

On the other hand, the Australian government doesn’t want to encourage people to make a risky boat journey, and public opinion, inflamed by some extreme media attitudes, has turned against asylum-seekers arriving by boat.

The christian dilemma

Clearly there are limits to how many people Australia can accept. But clearly we are affluent and could offer many more refugee resettlements if we were willing. The country may not be willing, but should christians have a different attitude?

Whatever conclusion a christian may come to about the correct response, we need to be careful about our attitude:

  • The Bible clearly shows that God is concerned for the poor and suffering, and wants us to be too. Our first thought should surely be that we want to help if we can.
  • It is clear that some of the reactions, particularly by some of the more extreme popular media, are hateful, angry and selfish. Whether we agree with their conclusions or not, we cannot take on these attitudes.
  • We recognise that we are not our own, we have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), and our wealth is a gift from God. We are called to be sacrificially generous with what we have. It is hard to see how Jesus could approve any attitude of wanting to protect our own positions of wealth and privilege when others are in great need.

I fear that many christians are accepting the portrayals of refugees as something other than desperate people looking for safe haven (as most of them actually are) and hard-line attitudes of the more extreme media, and not allowing the words of Jesus and the Holy Spirit to lead them to a christian response.

A personal dilemma

But it is easy for me to point the finger. How much am I committed to helping those in need, even if it costs me some of my comfortable lifestyle? I really don’t know.

And I don’t know what the best political response to this growing issue is. But I am convinced that I cannot allow selfishness to control my response. And there are things I can do within whatever approach the government adopts.

How do you feel about this?

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

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