For many refugees, they have experienced the fear and hardship of war and conflict, famine, natural disasters, poverty and hunger. For many of us, it never crosses our mind where our next meal will come from, how we will be able to protect our children or whether our home will still be there the next day. It can be taken as a given that we will have enough money to buy essentials, have documentation, and have authorities to turn to in times of need.
Why is Refugee Week important to the Church? After all, it isn’t a liturgical date or feast day, nor is there any specific connection to the daily life and rituals of the faithful. Christians, however, are called to be forces for good in the world. They are called to not sit idly by while their neighbour is in need. In the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 25, Jesus famously says these words of teaching:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40)
Christians are called to actively be forces of good in this world which is filled at times with much misery, hardship and injustice. Christ tells us to be salt of the earth, and the light on a hill. Every day we need to reflect on if we as individuals, and if the Church, is living out Christ’s teaching.
The Scriptures teach that we are to love and respect others, to recognise and celebrate the uniqueness, dignity and intrinsic worth and value of others. The past few weeks have seen the question of race raised, and the debate of how best to handle as a nation the topic of refugees goes on. There will be many answers provided to these, and no doubt these discussions will continue for a while, as they are big and important topics. But Christians are guided by the great command that Jesus gave us: to love others as we ourselves would want to be. Loving isn’t always easy, and it isn’t always clear how. But this is what we are called to do, to love just as God loved us.
Happy Refugee Week!
Mr Patrick Fabian
Director of Faith & Ministry