Tuesday, August 11, 2015

"Swarm" or Human Crisis - a Biblical View of the Migrant Issue

The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, has been widely criticised for describing the migrants crisis in the Mediterranean and at the UK border in Calais as "a swarm" of people. In doing so he risked dehumanising what is an intensely human problem that is as old as humanity itself - the issue of refugees and the granting of asylum. Whilst Mr Cameron should be forgiven for using an unfortunate word in a live interview - after all he too is only human - it is sad that we so soon forget the fact that many of these migrants are on the run from deathly threats of violence and brutally cruel and repressive governments. Many of them are Syrians, displaced by four years of brutal civil war, or Iraqis, whose country is being eaten up by the vile IS group seeking to drag it back into the dark ages. The UN Refugees Chief Antonio Guterres said recently “We have not seen a refugee outflow escalate at such a frightening rate since the Rwandan genocide almost 20 years ago.”

Of course people in Britain want to put up the "house full" sign and deny access to this tide of refugees. In some areas the NHS is over-run and schools, roads and public services built even only 20 or 30 years ago are woefully inadequate to cope with the numbers of people now making use of them. BUT - and here's the rub - if I lived in those originating countries today and knew that getting to Europe and perhaps to Britain was the only hope for my children, I think I would begin the dreadful journey too.

What should our attitude be as Christians?  Well, quite a few of these folk will be believers in Jesus Christ, who have seen their loved ones and pastors back home beheaded for their faith. Where can they go except to the land that sent the missionaries who told them of God's love in the first place? And if some are indeed "economic migrants" travelling to find better prospects away from their homeland, who can blame them when Britain boasts of her amazing recovery from recession on worldwide television news?

The Bible teaches us to love and care for refugees - strangers as they are called in the Old Testament.  God made the Jews build six "cities of refuge" in ancient Israel where people who had accidentally fallen foul of the feudal system of revenge and retribution - an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth - could flee to and find acceptance without too many questions being asked. The Jewish people, God's people, have been refugees for centuries without a homeland, depending on the kindness of gentile nations to take them in. Our Lord Jesus Christ was himself a migrant refugee from the vile and murderous anger of King Herod just after the first Christmas time.

Maybe, just maybe, there is a force behind this tide driving a needy crowd to our nation's shores, as a kind of test of our so called Christian heritage? We should be proud that they look to us for help. The mission field for which we have prayed over the years is now on our doorstep. We should guard the vulnerable and needy from exploitation by wicked people smugglers if we possibly can.

There is another side to this story and I know I may be called a tree-hugging liberal and worse, but I think we should consider it when the media forces us to a much harsher position than our Bibles allow.