Life + Culture

More children, different border: Who gets to be a refugee?

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Young children in a refugee camp
More children, different border
Once again, families are on the run, children are crossing borders, governments are making decisions about whether to open or close their doors. Will the Church offer any sanctuary?

Like police brutality in the USA, too often our hearts begin to open only once graphic pictures and videos emerge. But blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. We mustn't be so hard to cajole into compassion.

And just like deaths in the USA, the we are more likely to sympathize with many lives lost suddenly, than with same numbers dying in individual trajectories. So it's only when we see a boy on a beach, or a boat of 900 capsized, that we begin to feel moved.

But late is better than never, and public sympathy has begun to turn. We are convicted. We feel someone should be doing something. As long as it is someone else.

Graphic of USA indicating highest and lowest states from refugee immigration
How welcoming is your state to refugees?
How welcoming is your church?
(h/t @GCORR)
So we play a game of 'not it' with millions of lives hanging in the balance. Indeed, the UN predicts that nearly 1,000,000 people will cross into the EU by next year, and even if each of the 28 member nations agree to receive 160,000 refugees, the vast majority of those fleeing their homes will have no safe place to go. The USA, in its generosity, has committed to receiving 10,000 of these (less than 1% to the wealthiest nation in the world). But only of the "good" kind.

Indeed, while some get to be 'refugees,' receiving extra assistance as they flee truly horrifying situations, others remain 'merely' migrants and so must wait. And many will perish while they stand in line. 

So who is worthy of our assistance? Who needs our help bad enough  to grovel? We have decided we will help you if you're from Syria, but not Afghanistan. From Iraq, but not Libya. They may come from different places, but they've cross the same rough sea to escape. They've endure the same hash conditions, the same squalid camps. They've made the same harrowing decision, on the off chance of their survival.

Political cartoon. Man on military ship: "Where are you from?" People on a crowded life raft: "Earth"
Somali-British poet Warsan Shire, describes it well:
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
....
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
(read the full poem here)
It is easy to question the compassion of countries thousands of miles away. It was not long ago that children streamed across the US border looking for refuge. We too turned them away. But the Lord says "I will be swift... against those who thrust aside the sojourners, and do not fear me" (Malachi 3:5).
Anti-immigration protest signs
Meantime, on the USA/Mexico border...

We are a Church whose history is filled with refugees who have been the pillars of our faith. We remember Noah, who stuffed his family onto a crowded ship, and endured the tossing waves to to escape eminent doom. We honor Moses, who also floated on a life raft on troubled waters to reach safety as a baby boy. We worship a Christ who was also refugee child, fleeing across the Egyptian border to save His life. Indeed, we pray to a God that does not heartlessly tell us to "go away," but says instead tells us "welcome home." Will we not offer others the same?


This article is part of a Mennonerds synchro-blog on the Middle-Eastern Refugee Crisis.
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