No one can deny that this nation is facing a profusion of problems. Our culture and politicians are immoral; our economy is floundering; we face an uncertain future; and there are enough conspiracy theories to keep us on edge for the next decade. While others may be fixated on these troublesome events, my soul is torn asunder by the images of the Middle Eastern and African refugees trying to get to Europe for asylum.
There are photos of fathers throwing their bodies over their wives and babies as they lie on railroad tracks, trying to avoid being sent to "camps" where they are detained, and identifying numbers are written on their arms in permanent ink. You can see young men being pulled through the open windows of crowded trains as the refugees storm the railroad cars for a chance to make it one more mile toward their destination. And then there's the children ... so many crying children who are hungry, afraid, and at the mercy of a world that doesn't quite know what to do with them.
They have already traveled hundreds of miles. Some of them have crossed northern Africa, through the lawless land of Libya; a country without a government, where they have been fair game for kidnappers, rapists, and murderers. Others have been driven from their homes in Iraq and Syria by the barbaric acts of ISIS. If they manage to survive those uncivilized and endless, dangerous miles, they make it to the Mediterranean Sea for the next leg of their journey to Europe. But so many don't know how to swim, and there are no life jackets, so when a boat capsizes, death is swift. The body of young Aylan on that Turkish beach is just a reminder of the countless number of victims that we will never know about.
Some of the refugees have been lucky enough to have fought tooth and nail to escape the chaos of their home countries to make it all the way to Budapest, Hungary -- so close to Germany, who according to the news sources I've read, have agreed to take in 800,000 refugees this year. According to a report on The Daily Mail, Hungary allowed several thousand to board trains bound for Austria and Germany, but then the station was closed to anyone without an EU passport or a valid visa. The desperation of all these hundreds of thousands of people is palpable. They have all risked death to make these journeys because they have nothing to lose. So what is the world to do?
Before we answer that question, world leaders must take a good portion of responsibility for this humanitarian crisis. The major world powers were all involved with the series of protests and uprisings in the Middle East called the Arab Spring. It all began with unrest in Tunisia in late 2010, and then spread to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Morocco and Jordan. The Arab Spring brought down regimes in some of these Arab countries, sparked mass violence in others, while some governments (like Jordan) managed to delay the trouble with a mix of repression, promise of reform and state handouts. I think we all see that the rapid rise of ISIS filled the vacuum that was left by all the chaos and civil wars in these countries.
Without a doubt, we have surely "sowed the wind, and are reaping the whirlwind". And there is no easy answer to this inhumane calamity. I understand the reasoning behind the resistance to open borders in Europe. Christian Broadcasting Network reports that more than 300,000 Africans and Asians have crossed Europe's border this year, double last year's pace. And people are asking the genuine question, "Will these insurmountable numbers of refugees amount to a replacement of Europe's population?" Is it legitimate to ask, "How many French people are going to be left in France? How many English people are going to be left in England?"
There will be those who say that if you want some kind of limits on the immigration of refugees into Europe, then you are a racist. But isn't it reasonable to be concerned that a country's system of government, public welfare, and community standards might collapse if the swell of refugees is allowed to overwhelm it? After all, that is what we are concerned with at our own southern border.
I must tell you that I prayed to God before writing this post. I asked the Holy Spirit to reveal the Father's mind and heart on this issue. What is it that He wants us to understand about this situation and how we are to approach it? I will admit that I am just as torn as when I began to pray. Ttrying to discern the "right answer" is most difficult. And the Bible has been misused on controversial issues such as this by those wishing to push their own agenda. I did not want to fall into that camp. Plus, I don't really know if my discernment is on the mark or not. I can only share what the Bible is telling me, and in my own admittedly limited understanding. I do not have an answer for myself. So I can only point out the positions that the Bible takes and then ask you to pray in order to make your own decision.
We are all familiar with Jesus's command to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength; and to love your neighbor as yourself." The question becomes, "Who is my neighbor?" Are we to accept all alien sojourners into all countries? Are they to receive the same and full benefits as the natives of these countries? Are they to assimilate and follow the laws of their new adopted countries? The Hebrew word for "Sojourn" means temporary stay. Yet, we know that the refugees pouring out of the Middle East and Africa will most likely never return to their native lands.
It becomes pretty clear in the relevant Old Testament passages that foreign residents were to comply with Israelite laws, such as Sabbath observance (Deut. 16:9-15). Furthermore, the law God laid down for Israel allowed legal distinctions to be drawn between native Jews and resident aliens. For instance, Deuteronomy 15 commands the remission of the debts of fellow Israelites every seven years, but “[o]f a foreigner you may exact” his debts (v. 3). Does that apply to our modern-day situation?
We must also remember that borders and boundaries are very important to God. Throughout the Old Testament, He makes it clear that He "fixed the borders of the people according to the number of the sons of God." God has had a hand in establishing nations and their borders. And remember, that numerous times the Israelites were warned against letting the aliens’ pagan practices corrupt their God-given moral standards. Shouldn't that be taken into consideration with this humanitarian crisis?
In short, the Old Testament teaches fair treatment of resident foreigners, with certain requirements of the aliens related to religious and civil legal standards. It also instructs that aliens were to assimilate to the Hebrew culture. Boundaries are meaningful, as well, and the foreign presence of refugees among the Hebrews was sometimes a curse. In the end, there are no real details regarding immigration procedures, standards, or other policies that nations should apply.
So, how should I, as one Christian person feel about the tragedy I am witnessing? I am overwhelmed with a sense of wanting to show these refugees mercy. Do I have it wrong, or is it the government's job to dispense justice, and mine to give mercy? Isn't that what the Parable of the Good Samaritan is all about? We can quote Scripture and talk about love of God and our fellow man, but until we get involved, isn't it all false rhetoric? And are you able to look upon the pictures I am showing you and see beyond the ethnicity of the person? Can you see a fellow human being that needs mercy? If we have the means to lend monetary help, shouldn't we? I strongly believe that any money I have been blessed with belongs to God, and He provides enough for my needs and the needs for others. I cannot turn away. Yet the need is massive, and the solution just doesn't seem available. And then I wonder if there is meant to be any solution. Is this just the result of the world's evil amassing into one engulfing world-wide catastrophe?
The only thing I know to do is offer intercessory prayer. I can't say if this is the beginning of the Tribulation, but it sure feels like it. I can only imagine that all of this human suffering is only going to get worse. Father God, rain down your mercy on these people and show us how to represent You in the midst of this human misery. We know that Your Light shines, even in these darkest of days. Shine on these people, Father, and restore Your Peace on the earth!
It has been difficult to find any honorable and trustworthy organization to which I can donate; one that I know will reach those who need it. The only one that seems to be targeting this crisis is Doctors Without Borders. Should you know of another relief organization, please send me your recommendations.
1 John 3:17 "But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?"