My last blog post was titled “RefuJesus” about Jesus being a refugee and what that means in this current era. Right now we have the greatest refugee crisis in the world since World War II. Meanwhile the U.S., led by President Trump, is closing its doors on refugees out of fear for the terrorist who might slip through, leaving tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands to suffer outside possible safe haven.
Sharon and I spent January and February in the Middle East. In January we worked in Lebanon, including leading workshops on trauma healing and self-care for people who serve the refugees and displaced people from the Syrian Civil War. These people are incredible heroes, giving their time, energy, love, and resources selflessly and often at high risk.
We also worshipped at a church in Beirut where about half the congregants are refugees. They opened their hearts and doors and have found new life and vitality in their service to those who are vulnerable.
In February we journeyed on to Egypt, the place where Jesus was taken by Mary and Joseph, fleeing the violence of Herod the Great. We visited churches built at places commemorating stops along their journey. Egyptians are proud they gave Jesus sanctuary, both Christians and Muslims.
Meanwhile we heard a steady bombardment of news from the U.S. about our fear of those who might come seeking refuge, the determination to build walls and close borders, and about the chaos in ordinary people’s lives at sudden decisions to slam closed entry into the U.S. As we equipped heroic refugee workers for their sustainable service, as we worshipped alongside those who had fled war, as we followed in the footsteps of the Holy Family, and as we entered the shrines built to commemorate the safety they found, we felt ashamed about our country. So many people lift up our “Christian values,” yet here our national policies were so antithetical to living out the concern for “the least of these” who are members of Christ’s family. We have barred our borders to victims of war, war sometimes made worse by our national policies, and in doing so we have barred our borders to Jesus as well.