R U A REFUGEE?

How do you steel yourself against the heart-rending refugee photographs that now wall-paper cyberspace? The lifeless body of 3 year old Alan Kurdi, lying face down in the wet sand, drowned along with his mother and brother in a desperate effort to cross the sea in a dinghy in order to flee the bloody Syrian mayhem. The emaciated Middle-eastern and North African men, women and children walking for miles and miles only to cling to a razor-edged chain-link fence hastily erected by Hungary to stem the massive overflow of fleeing refugees into their country. A nameless boy, sobbing loudly as he and his mother try to run from pursuing border guards, the only English the boy can sob, “Please, please, please.”

How do we steel ourselves from the images pouring in from Europe, chronicling this stunning unexpected humanitarian crisis? Already over 4 million people have fled the civil war in Syria. And lest we think that Europe is the major recipient of this Middle East human largess, the truth is that the tiny countries surrounding Syria are carrying the heaviest burden of these refugees. Vox.com has graphed the refugee numbers in relation to the host country’s population: Lebanon with 1.1 million new refugees is sheltering 232 refugees per 1000 people; Jordan’s 629,000 refugees means 87 refugees per 1000 citizens; Turkey’s ratio, 21 refugees per 1000. Compare these ratios with the countries of the West: Canada 4.2 refugees per 1000; Germany 2.6 per 1000; the UK 1.8 per 1000; Australia 1.5 per 1000; the US 0.8 per 1000. The authors’ intended point of the graph is obvious—Syria’s neighbors are shouldering the heaviest load and the West could do more. (You can argue the point with them at www.vox.com/2015/9/15/9331371/syrian-refugees-europe-chart.)

And where is God in the midst of this humanitarian crisis? Perhaps as Jesus dramatically reminded us, He is stands in the middle of this overspreading human sea: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the lest of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me” (Matthew 25:40).

Surely God does not blame these refugees for leaving the insanity that has become their homeland. Perhaps they respond to His ancient cry: “Come out of her, My people” (Jeremiah 51:45; Revelation 18:4).

And what shall we do, we who are not governments or the United Nations? Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is embedded in the thick of this European refugee crisis. If you would like to assist ADRA in their mission to these refugees, please click on to https://adra.org/crisis-refugees-in-europe/#.

But God’s call to “Come out of her, My people” is not only for geographical refugees—it also a call for spiritual refugees. Forty-eight hours after Pope Francis stands in the well of the United States Congress next Thursday we will ponder on Sabbath, “How to Discern the Pope’s Agenda for America.” With all due respect and courtesy we will reflect on the agenda the immensely popular pope brings to the world’s table. In the halogen light of apocalyptic prophecy that agenda becomes clear. But how then shall we as a faith community reflect both the bold compassion and the radical mission of Christ to this generation? How can the everlasting Good News still be good news in the midst of these escalating headlines? And how can we assist the God who calls these refugees “My people”?

“Come, let us reason together.”

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