Do not mistreat or oppress a refugee, for you were refugees in Egypt.
— Exodus 22
Yeah, I know. In your Bible and in mine, it says “foreigner,” not “refugee.”
That won’t get us off the hook.
The Bible is the story of refugees. It’s the story of those who were displaced. It’s the story of a family who sought shelter in Egypt when famine decimated their land.
They weren’t just “foreigners” or “migrants.”
They were refugees.
When the crisis was over, when they were settled comfortably in their homes, they were told to remember what it was like—and to extend hospitality to other refugees.
Centuries later, the children of Abraham became refugees again when their homes were razed and their loves ones cut down by war. Exiled to a faraway land, they were the ones to whom God said, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
God wants to prosper refugees.
God wants to give refugees hope and a future.
If you’re a Christian, you don’t have the luxury of not caring about the greatest refugee crisis since World War II.
We don’t have the luxury of looking away when drowned children’s bodies wash up on a beach.
We don’t get to treat refugees like an invading force. We don’t get to call them a “swarm.” We don’t get to call them “migrants,” either—as if they casually decided one day it’d be fun to live in our country for a change. Euphemisms won’t shield us from our responsibility to act.
It’s been too convenient to misname it as a migrant crisis, because it suggests these people are voluntarily fleeing, whereas in fact, if you’ve been barrel-bombed out of your home three times, life and limb demand that you flee.
—David Milliband, IRC
If you’re a Christian, you don’t get to prioritize your own comfort and security over compassion for someone else.
You just don’t.
I get that throwing the doors open might not have been enough to save Aylan Kurdi and his brother Galip. The present crisis requires countries do more than just liberalize their asylum policies.
But some of us have been using the need for “long-term solutions” as an excuse for doing nothing—or not doing enough.
My own country, the United States, has taken in maybe 1,500 Syrian refugees.
Britain has granted asylum to 5,000 or so.
Canada has welcomed about 1,000. Aylan and Galip were not among them.
We have to do better.
The sad thing is, some of us care more about a clerk in Kentucky going to jail because she defied a court order than we care about children washing up dead on a beach.
Some of us are so worked up about imaginary persecution that we don’t even notice the real thing when it terrorizes, uproots, and kills the innocent.
My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
Almost four decades ago, millions fled Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Many took to the sea in flimsy boats, hoping to find refuge somewhere, anywhere. One of them was my friend Cat-Dan. She was three months old when her parents decided they had to get out. You can read her story here.
Thousands of refugees died at sea—perhaps as many as 400,000. The world tried to ignore their plight, just as we’ve tried to ignore those fleeing Syria.
Countries tried shutting their borders. They tried cutting their asylum quotas. Back then, refugees were left to drift at sea; today they’re left to suffocate in the back of a lorry.
Eventually the world saw what was happening, thanks in part to efforts like World Vision’s Operation Seasweep.
There was an outcry, and world leaders were shamed into action. The United States wound up taking 1.4 million refugees. And you know what? They made our country better.
It’s time we were shamed into action again.
You can support the Migrant Offshore Aid Station as they work to save refugees at sea.
You can buy some of my friend Kurt’s artwork. For September, he’s donating everything he earns to help Syrian refugees.
You can demand more from your government. You can sign this White House petition calling on the U.S. to resettle 65,000 Syrian refugees. (That’s the number proposed by the International Rescue Committee.)
We can do 65,000. We might even become a better country for it.
As Christians, our story is a refugee story. Never forget that. Never look away. Never fail to show compassion to the refugees in our world.