Refugees Welcome Here

6 Feb

Along with many other public groups and associations, the Baptist World Alliance has issued a statement urging us to welcome refugees, not create further barriers to their freedom. It’s quoted below. I think it is immensely important that we raise our voices and do all we can to oppose those who have fostered fear and prejudice, often through ignorance, against some of the most vulnerable people in the world. Even worse, the fact that our own policies and actions around the world are actually causing the horrific situations from which such people are fleeing seems not even to be considered.

Here is the BWA Statement: I have highlighted some key words.

In a resolution approved by its General Council in Vancouver, Canada, in July 2016, the BWA calls upon its “member bodies, affiliated churches, and individual believers to actively embrace opportunities for Christian ministry and witness that exemplify the biblical teaching to love the stranger (Lev. 19:18b) and Jesus’ teaching to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-40), being salt and light in ways that bring the values of our Lord into our culture.”

The resolution further encourages Christian believers “to personally engage with all refugees and displaced persons, generously showing God’s love and care as we demonstrate the sufficiency of God made known through Jesus Christ.”

In light of this resolution passed a little more than six months ago and previous resolutions in 2011 and 2013, the BWA decries recent actions by the United States Government to issue a blanket travel ban on seven countries that specifically targets refugees and that seems to especially affect Muslims.

These actions are already having a negative impact on the lives of families. It has adversely affected service providers who work directly with refugees and has created unexpected difficulties for Baptist institutions in the United States, such as universities and seminaries, with students enrolled from the seven named countries.

While the BWA recognizes that a government has a right to create and maintain conditions that provide for the safety of its citizens, there is a temptation to give in to fear and to hastily pursue misguided policies that will have deleterious long-term effects and that undermine freedom of religion.

We accept this is not a situation that has emerged quickly and is in part a response to longstanding problems in these seven countries. We decry unjust actions that are too often left unaddressed and conditions that are allowed to deteriorate.

We note that in Iraq, Christians, Yazidis and others face genocide at the hands of the Islamic State. Over the last decade, the Christian population in Iraq has shrunk from 1.5 million to less than 200,000.

In Yemen, a Global Alert from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network indicates that Yemen is at risk of the highest level of food insecurity.

Syria is one of the most complex conflicts and humanitarian situations in our world that has devastated the country, which faces a future of trauma and rebuilding.

Baptists, fellow Christians and all people of goodwill should work to reverse conditions that lead to displacement in these and other countries and for peace, harmony and justice to prevail.

The BWA commends Baptists in countries such as Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Germany, Sweden, Croatia, Serbia and elsewhere, who have embodied the biblical mandate to stand with the vulnerable and to extend Christian hospitality. We support Baptists in the United States who offer welcome and provide assistance.

I know that many of my colleagues in the USA are struggling to know how best to respond to the roller-coaster situation of their new government, and that some within the same denomination are strongly supportive of these moves. Now it is a time for Christian identity to transcend nationalism (as it should, always!) and for fundamental values of justice, peace, and human rights to be affirmed by and for all.

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