This week on Medium, there was a lovely collection of statements from various faith leaders speaking about our collective need to protect refugees. All of the statements are worth reading. I originally wrote a much longer statement, but was asked to shorten it a little bit. Thought I’d publish my full statement here.
View story at Medium.com
Rev. Traci M. Smith, Pastor, Northwood Presbyterian Church
This week Stephen Mattson, writer for Sojourners magazine, wrote this: “Although there might be many political, financial, and logistical reasons for citizens to reject the influx of global refugees, there are no theological ones.” As a Christian and a minister, I can’t think of a more succinct way to sum up my beliefs on the question “How many refugees should we let in to our country?” The answer is as many as we possibly can. Scripture is full of commands to take care of the most vulnerable in our society and the list always includes strangers and refugees. If we refuse to accept and protect immigrants we are denying one of the most core beliefs of our faith. There is simply no reason to reject refugees on the basis of faith.
It seems to me that the rhetoric against welcoming refugees is largely rooted in fear. Though I have compassion for the fearful, I refuse to let my moral and ethical choices be guided by fear. Welcoming someone with a different language or customs or religion can be scary, and we should be slow to judge another person’s fear. At the same time, the angels consistently tell us “Be not afraid.” It is their constant refrain. Be not afraid. Be not afraid. Be not afraid.
Finally, when we think about accepting and welcoming refugees, we might consider something very basic, yet undeniably true: when we help and “rescue” refugees, they help and rescue us. My family once hosted a Central American refugee and her eight year old son for a few months. People were constantly praising us for our generosity, but they shouldn’t have. In hosting and welcoming refugees I learned the true meaning of Hebrews 13:2 “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
There is no season more profoundly rooted in the symbolism of welcoming someone who has no place to go than advent. Christians must search our hearts and scriptures and pray for faithfulness as we consider how to respond to the need of immigrants around the world. May we be faithful.