By Rev. Matt Koerber
As we continue to develop this discussion, we are turning to a different topic. Admittedly, there are many aspects of immigration policy that we have not directly addressed. Topics such as “amnesty”, “deportation”, “sanctuary cities”, “services for undocumented immigrants” and “assimilation” have only been given cursory attention – if they have been referenced at all. As we said from the outset, there is more in this subject than we could possibly hope to cover in six weeks. It is not our intent to be exhaustive and it is not our goal to resolve every issue. Instead we want to explore a breadth of topics related to immigration and try to forge a dialogue that is balanced and biblical. There is room for Christians to draw different conclusions on these matters.
This week we will discuss “Refugees.” It is important to note from the very beginning that refugees are different from other types of immigrants. While immigrants choose to relocate – usually for educational or economic reasons; refugees are forced from their homeland – usually from fear of violence or famine. This important distinction should have an impact on our policy considerations. Refugees are people who are in need and have little choice in the matter.
Many readers of this blog may know that last summer, I spent two months with my family working with refugees in Athens Greece. Some of the people that we spent time with were from Afghanistan, but most were from the Middle East – especifically Syria, where a long civil war has driven millions out of their own country. Through our experience, we had a window into a huge worldwide problem. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that there are 21.3 million refugees worldwide, over half of whom are under the age of 18. The largest numbers come from Somalia (1.1m), Afghanistan (2.7m), and Syria (4.9m). While Greece receives a great deal of visibility for their refugee care, they only host about 60,000, while Turkey has more than 2.5 million refugees (see statistics here).
It has been challenging for many countries to know how to respond. Germany and France has wrestled with these issues publicly, and this past winter, the presidential travel ban put the US refugee resettlement program on hold. (The halt to the refugee program has since been delayed in the courts.) How should Christians think about this difficult issue?