THEOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS ON THE CARE FOR REFUGEES
Among the strangers in urgent need of hospitality are those fleeing their homeland because of imminent danger to their lives. The issue of refugees and asylum seekers poses a great challenge to the society and the Church. How should Christians respond?
Luke Bretherton, a British ethicist, argues that a faithful response must acknowledge refugees near and far as God’s gift, God’s judgment and God’s promise.
• Refugees as God’s gift recognizes that every human being is a unique individual created in the image of God. Each possesses distinct identity, dignity and the right to communicate and relate with others. The Church’s duty of care involves creating places where persons seeking asylum are treated with respect and given opportunities to act on their own behalf.
• Refugees as God’s judgment calls into question the human tendency toward exclusion as a response to those who are different. The Church makes a counter response of welcome and inclusion to those who have been reduced to bare life due to our sins of greed and idolatrous security.
• Refugees as God’s promise includes the lives of refugees and asylum seekers in the hope of the kingdom of God. The Church reconfigures former social relationships and develops new public friendships to witness to the in-breaking of God’s reign here and now. This promise requires mutual sacrifice and change on the part of both the Church and the refugees and asylum seekers.5
Refugee ministry can be a challenging endeavor. Yet, the task becomes clearer when we realize that refugees and asylum seekers as children of God are also subjects of divine justice and forgiveness, regardless of their immigration status. Welcoming the stranger then is not so daunting when we remember that the hospitality and home we offer are not our own. They belong to God. Therefore, refugee ministry is simply the extending of God’s hospitality in Jesus Christ to the ‘least of these’ as an act of faith, a sign of hope, and a time to love.