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How Do We Respond to the Refugees?

November 22, 2015
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Many Christians don’t know what to say about the Trudeau government’s plan to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year. Since the majority of them will be Muslim, and since the recent attacks in Paris included one terrorist with a Syrian passport, we are left with trying to balance our concerns for safety over against the desire to show compassion to those who have fled.

The National Post recently reported that that more than half of all Canadians, (54%) either moderately or strongly oppose Trudeau’s plan. Most of us have read numerous articles on issues including: the plight of the refugees; the refusal of Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia to take any of them; the fact that most are young men (72%); that there is a preponderance of 2nd generation Muslims to radicalize, meaning that trouble may follow from the influx of refugees; the costs of providing social services; and the fact that Christian Syrian refugees have in some circumstances already been persecuted by those who are Muslim.

But behind all of this, Christians must remember that our ethics and our participation in the politics and decisions of our country must be informed by the Bible. So, are there any biblical principles that might help us as we contemplate these matters? Let me suggest the following four:

1. Exodus 22:21 tells Israel that when the nation comes into the promised land, “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” I am assuming that regardless of how we feel about the refugees, they are coming to Canada. And I am assuming that the 25,000 will not be the end of the matter. I presume some of us will feel afraid and suspicious. Some of us will also note that nations with a significant Muslim population often experience high degrees of unrest, as Islam is an aggressive religion. But, in spite of all of this, once the refugees are here, we are forbidden from oppressing them.

Indeed, Christ’s love demands we do more than refrain from harming. We are required to love as Christ loved us. Furthermore, there is an opportunity for churches to become involved in helping, clothing, feeding and providing shelter to many. And in this, we have an opportunity to share the gospel of Christ. We must get beyond seeing the politics of the matter, and prepare to be what Christ wants us to be.

2. Proverbs 14:16 says, “One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.” I believe we should be strongly urging the federal government to not only screen the refugees, but to let the Canadian people understand exactly what the screening process entails, how long it takes, and on what basis decisions are made. This can be our opportunity to introduce a voice of calm and reason in very volatile times.

3. I believe Christian churches should be ordering Bibles and/or New Testaments in Arabic, to be given as the result of our growing relationship with refugees. Many of us are aware of the fact that some Muslims, because of the violence in the Middle East, are more open to the gospel than before. So along with the terror that many of these people have experienced, and with the reality of now adopting to a new country, this can open doors to the Christian gospel. We have an opportunity, but we dare not squander it.

4. According to Acts 17:26-27, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him.”

My prayer to a sovereign God who has determined this time in history, and these refugees to our shores, is that some of these people might “feel their way toward him.”

May this, too, be our ultimate prayer and desire!

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