“So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud labourers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 3:5)
Did you know that 17-23 June 2019 is Refugee Week all around the world?
The sheer numbers of internally displaced people, refugees, asylum seekers and ‘irregular migrants’ in the world today are overwhelming.[i] There is little sign that this number will fall substantially in the foreseeable future. It seems more likely to increase.
Many Australians, New Zealanders, and citizens of other wealthy countries worry about refugees and asylum seekers from places plagued by war, injustice and poverty entering their community. What will it mean for us that they come to stay in our country? Will it be a drain on our society, welfare systems, public services and employment? What about crime and those who pretend to be refugees but are actually criminals? So we worry that somehow our place will be changed permanently in ways we won’t like.
Our voting behaviour seems to reflect such insecurity, self-interest and poverty of spirit. The truth is, we know that for the most part we have it pretty good. We are afraid of losing our good times and that the troubled past of refugees is contagious. So we vote for politicians who promise to defend us from things that might threaten our way of life and our comforts and conveniences. This puts our more moderate politicians into a difficult position, for unless they are firm about ‘who comes here and under what circumstances’, other candidates who exploit voters’ fear and self-interest will replace them at the next election.
Christians too, who have lived in a wealthy country for most or all of their lives, and who have little or no experience of persecution or poverty, fall into such ‘this-worldly’ thinking. But the gospel message doesn’t stop at the church door. It is for all the world. Jesus calls us to a different way of thinking (see for example Matt 6:25-34; Mark 10:17-31). As we learn to trust in our heavenly Father’s generous love and care for us, the more free and generous we become, doing what is right for our neighbours in need, and acting as Christ to them.
The following short prayer could guide us as we pray for all people at this time in our troubled world: Change the world, Lord, beginning with me.
Additional prayer points
- That Christians will show the way to others by recognising that their fellow humans are created in God’s image, and by treating them as such;
- For Christians in wealthy countries, that we may grow to trust more and more in our heavenly Father’s love and care for us, that we may be freed to do what is right for our neighbours in need;
- For authorities with the difficult task of regulating the movement of refugees and asylum seekers and arranging for their care—and where appropriate, resettlement—and for all who work in partnership with them, such as Australian Lutheran World Service and Lutheran Community Care organisations;
- For groups such as the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, which lobby for refugees and ask us to become a more generous society;
- For initiatives to support refugees within our own communities and churches;
- For the many hundreds of thousands of people around the world who have spent many years living ‘in limbo’ in refugee camps, and whose plight is unknown or ignored by people like us.
Questions to think about
How might followers of Jesus respond to claims that Australia and New Zealand are ‘our place’?
Might those of us who are concerned about being ‘swamped’ by uninvited migrants reflect on the experience of Aboriginal Australians over the past two hundred years?
Pastor John Henderson,
Bishop, Lutheran Church of Australia
21 June 2019
[i] The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) breaks the figures down as follows: Total displaced people 68.5 million, comprised of: Internally displaced people 40 million; Refugees 25.4 million; and Asylum seekers 3.1 million.