There are currently hundreds of thousands of people trying to get across Europe to countries such as the UK in search of a better, safer life for themselves and their families.
How should we respond as pilgrim followers of Jesus? What to say, what to do, what to campaign for?
Some of them are economic migrants, just looking for better financial prospects.
Some are fleeing real and present danger.
Some are Christians.
Some are Muslims.
I don’t know which cases deserve the most mercy but processing this many people is a monumental challenge to European governments. Most of our systems are designed for individuals and small groups, not boatloads.
I know that we can only do so much as individuals. Our greatest responsibility is to care at home for our families, extending to merciful acts to our immediate neighbours and friends and then to society and to the wider world. We cannot carry the burden of caring for every child in poverty but I should love my neighbours. Making it the government’s problem can just be an excuse. There is a danger my heart attitude is not right. I wonder why my instinctive response towards the refugees is negative. Bob Geldoff offered people one of his homes. Sure, it was just a gesture and didn’t really mean much but at least he said it. My first response is to want to send them back. Is this a healthy scepticism about whether they truly deserve asylum or just selfishness that I don’t want to spend my money feeding and clothing them and giving medical care?
I know that our responsibility is not the same as the governments. Our leaders do things on our behalf that we could not do on our own. If millions came to our country, where would they live? How would that take land and other resources away? We could just keep giving till there is nothing left, but how does that balance with the need to care for other vulnerable people in our society – children, the elderly and the weak? These are the major strategic decisions that governments must take with an eye to the welfare of their own citizens but with a big heart to seek to care for the vulnerable in the world on a scale that is sustainable.
And yet still there is a feeling that what I want most is for the government to protect my way of life rather than the migrants’ right to life.
So let me suggest some responses that we as a church should be making
– Ask God to show you what it means in practice to love your neighbour and not pass by on the other side
– Pray for God to have mercy and bring relief to those who are suffering
– Pray for world leaders to do good things that improve the lives of people in their own countries
– Pray for governments to put a fair and sustainable system in place for processing asylum applications
– Write to your local MP and Ministers of State to tell them we are praying for these things and urging them to provide some degree of aid and to work for some longer term solutions by trying to help the situation in the countries these people are fleeing.
Photo: “Listening to the experiences of migrants from Libya – UK Department for International Development