'I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me' Matt 25:35 Click To Tweet
We have seen Syrians, Afghans, Eritreans, Somalians, Nigerians and many others fleeing war, violence and persecution in unprecedented numbers. We have seen them make their way to Europe in the hope of security and better lives. We have seen appalling news reports of their desperate and sometimes fatal efforts to reach European countries and have heard about the political fallout as politicians ponder how to respond.
But what happens in the long term to those people who come to live in the UK. What will happen to them when the emotions die down and the news switches to other concerns? The future of today’s migrants and refugees raises an urgent question about how the Church’s mission is shaped to respond to those to whom we pledge our loving service. Yes, we care today, because the pictures are so awful; why should we care tomorrow?
as your Son our Saviour was born of a Hebrew mother,
but rejoiced in the faith of a Syrian woman and of a Roman soldier,
welcomed Greeks who sought him,
and needed a man from Africa to carry his cross,
so teach us to regard the members of all races as fellow heirs of the kingdom of Jesus Christ our Lord.
'Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?' Luke 10:36 Click To Tweet
Hung Trung Pham SJ, a Vietnamese immigrant to the United States, has helpfully highlighted a number of issues which arise as migrants and refugees try to make a future for themselves in new countries.
First, individuals struggle with their own sense of identity and purpose. He writes that this struggle is particularly acute as they try to accommodate their experiences into their unfolding spiritual journey. He writes that for him, his struggle became intertwined with the experiences in the Bible of Joseph and that the story of Joseph can be for us a useful way of thinking about and beginning to understand what it is like to start a different life while trying to make sense of the conditions which have necessitated the transition.
This leads to what he calls ‘segmented assimilation’ dependent on social status from the past and the mode of reception in the host country. Both are critical in finding out what ‘place’ is available to migrants. He says too that migrants experience a sense of being in the society but not of it, and that much of this is mediated by picking up on the underlying fears of people around, especially if their fear is that other ethnicities, cultures and their religions will undermine their social fabric.
As a matter of mission, we can all commit to following God’s mission by working for Jesus’ kingdom vision among us. We see that we have our spiritual journeys in common with everyone, including those now arriving among us.