Commentary: Jesus was a Refugee

Girl wrapped in US AID bag at Ed Daein Transition Camp

Girl wrapped in US AID bag at Ed Daein Transition Camp

*by Mike Slaughter

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” –Matthew 2:13

Recent heart-breaking pictures and stories featured in the news media have brought the global refugee and migration crisis into our homes and hearts. Wars, conflict and persecution around the world have forced more people to flee and seek refuge elsewhere in recent years than has previously existed at any other time in recorded migration history. The U.N. reported in June that by the beginning of 2015 nearly 60 million people worldwide had been forcibly displaced. One in every 122 human beings is now either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum on Planet Earth. This is simply incredible.

Although recent attention has focused on Syrian refugees in the Middle East and entering Europe, this truly is a global crisis. The U.N. shared that 15 conflicts worldwide had erupted or reignited in the past five years, exploding the numbers of those fleeing, including eight in Africa (South Sudan being a prime example), three in the Middle East, three in Asia and one in Europe. The Americas are also impacted, with Central Americans fleeing to the U.S. as one recent example.

United Methodist Global Ministries has identified at least four points along the global migration path that urgently require attention:

  • Helping people transform where they live, their place of origin, so that they do not feel forced to flee
  • Providing safe passage along the way as they move
  • Welcoming and assisting with integration and belonging when refugees reach a destination
  • Supporting those who return home either voluntarily or because of forced deportation; returnees often face new ostracism or even hostility and must rebuild relationally and economically

Ginghamsburg has been involved in the refugee crisis with our strategic partner the United Methodist Committee on Relief since 2004. Our efforts have focused on three of these four areas of need: building safe water programs, schools and sustainable agriculture that permit people in Darfur and South Sudan to stay in their homes and villages; serving refugees in IDP (internally displaced persons) camps; and helping returnees from Darfur integrate back into South Sudan when the south received its independence in 2011. My son took this picture of the little girl on our June 2007 trip to Darfur to visit our Ginghamsburg projects. I specifically remember this day. We were at an IDP camp assessing the latrines that UMCOR had implemented with our funds, a key part of health and sanitation. Water, food, schools, a future … these are key needs in all communities where refugees arrive.

Christians are not always known for generous beliefs or actions toward the plight of immigrants. Yet we read in Acts on the Day of Pentecost that many nations were represented. The Old Testament is filled with declarations as to how God’s people were to treat the foreigners among them. Exodus 22:21 mandates, “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” Exodus 23:9 sings the same refrain. Leviticus 19:33–34 echoes the theme:

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

This Advent, United Methodist Global Ministries, United Methodist Communications, the United Methodist Publishing House and Ginghamsburg are challenging all churches across the country to partner together in compassionate action and sacrifice on behalf of global refugees. We humbly remember that that Jesus himself was a refugee in Egypt as a young child in his parents’ desperate effort to save him from genocide. Christmas is not our birthday – it’s Jesus’ birthday. How can we each give sacrificially for the one who sacrificed his all for us?

The Advance number that can be used for Christmas Miracle Offering contributions is #3022144. Watch  for additional updates and tools for being part of God’s miracle this Advent.

The Christmas season reminds us that Christians are to form a community of light in the midst of darkness – a broad, thriving and investing community through which God pours heaven’s resources and heaven’s purposes into Planet Earth.

*The Rev. Mike Slaughter is the lead pastor of the Ginghamsburg Church, a United Methodist congregation located in Tipp City, OH. He is also the author of multiple books including RENEGADE GOSPEL: Rebel Jesus(Abingdon Press), Dare to Dream (Abingdon Press); Shiny Gods (Abingdon Press);Christmas Is Not Your Birthday: Experience the Joy of Living and Giving Like Jesus(Abingdon Press) and Change The World: Recovering The Message and Mission of Jesus (Abingdon Press).

This post was originally published at http://mikeslaughter.com/blog/jesus-was-a-refugee

 

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3 Comments on "Commentary: Jesus was a Refugee"

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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Dr Bob Rich
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Thank you for this wonderful essay. I am not a Christian, but am a follower in my imperfect way of the message of Jesus.
We need to react to those in need with compassion, love and generosity.

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[…] Read this wonderful essay by Mike Slaughter. […]

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[…] According to Methodist Minister and human rights activist Mike Slaughter we are living to see the greatest refugee crisis the world has ever known.  He says, “Wars, conflict and persecution around the world have forced more people to flee and seek refuge elsewhere in recent years than has previously existed at any other time in recorded migration history. The U.N. reported in June that by the beginning of 2015 nearly 60 million people worldwide had been forcibly displaced. One in every 122 human beings is now either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum on Planet Earth.  This is… Read more »
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