Caring for the Poor, the Migrant, the Widow and the Orphan
“Portugal responded to the pandemic by granting citizenship rights to all migrants in March. The decision was made to secure Portugal’s migrants access to the national health service.
“While the move may sound shocking to Americans, Portuguese society has not collapsed. In fact — for a number of reasons — Portugal seems to be faring better than other countries in Europe during the pandemic, including its beleaguered neighbor, Spain.”
What’s your opinion on how this approach does or does not dovetail with the oft-repeated Scriptural precedent of caring for the poor, the migrant, the widow and orphan, who enter your borders. Does society forget/reject God when it forgets/rejects the people God cares about? Are countries ultimately judging themselves in this regard?
So that’s a debate topic should anyone wish to take it up.
The second speaker even partially addresses an concern about the dwindling Bible-believers, and future of Christianity, in America. Which also applies in large part to England and most of Europe.
I think you realize of course that when I first presented this discussion point, I was NOT applying the principle solely to America, but to all countries in general. (Some may chuckle at me stressing this particular point, as I do admittedly express certain anti-Trump attitudes from time-to-time ... but my determination was not to present this from a political party position as much as from the Scriptural precedent.)
The takeaways for me in these YouTubes were:
1) to consider ways that I can help immigrants that cross my path. Remembering that I am an immigrant myself that is blessed to be hosted by a country that I do not yet have full citizenship in (and where, either way, I will always be an immigrant), should cause me to appreciate more the importance of the issue. I like looking at it now as an area where I can personally find opportunities to assist poorer or more needy immigrants in my area.
2) The aspect of defining what an immigrant is was also interesting. Not necessarily having to be someone from a different political nation. In that sense we have many immigrants here that have come from poorer or more unstable parts of Mexico, seeking a better life.
3) The relevance of immigrant numbers that represent hope for the church in the US was fascinating.
A little further insight was included in David's post, "Some Thoughts on Immigrants." An article from Dallas Willard's site, ELCA.org, "Blessed are the Undocumented? A Reflection on Matthew 5:1-12."
This is a theological argument strongly proposed by N.T. Wright, with good scriptural backing, and similar to what we used to call the 'millennium on earth' (Wright equates the two). Maybe the idea that we are working with God now on the reparation of the earth (in Judaism it's called 'tikkum olam') will sober us all to make sure that our views of the disenfranchised and our actions toward them are loving and according to the law of His kingdom.
A few years ago I listened to an interview with an open-border politician. The conversation had been mostly about true immigrants vs the criminal elements that try to take advantage of the immigration situation. The interviewer at one point stated that he'd heard that the house near to this politician was for sale and that it was just purchased by some Central American immigrants (the MS-13 gang was part of the conversation). It was hypothetical, as clarified by the interviewer's next comment, but the politician was visibly surprised and shaken. The interviewer was trying to bring out the point that certain elements of those advocating less stringent or unchecked immigration are doing so from their safe neighborhood ivory towers. The discussion then got into the political aspects and voter stuffing, so to speak. These and similar aspects are everywhere in the news ... highly politicizing the immigration issue.
Without a godly outlook on it the problem won't be handled properly.
The whole idea of "neighbor" is all-encompassing and most often used in relation to immigrants or those not of the Israel of His time. The list is almost endless: the good Samaritan parable; the unexpected guest knocking on your door at midnight, etc.
His sobering warning to those who didn't care for the neighbor in need is aptly pertinent to the present issue: Matthew 25:35-40
From what I gather we all agree on caring and helping immigrants, which is what I expected, being that we are Christians.
As for my political views, having lived part of my youth under a right-wing military government, I see no dichotomy in being a Christian and a socialist. Jesus was a socialist in all forms and practice and His sermons are still revolutionary -- such as His views on even loving the enemy and feeding him if he is hungry.
Unfortunately, in the US, people are not offered other options than being a Republican or Democrat. Both parties have a small percentage of good but are mostly identical in ideology, favoring the rich, etc. Chomsky correctly says that at deeper scrutiny, they are identical in goals but superficially distinct.
The topic of being pro-life and against abortion has been brought out as an outstanding Christian quality of this government. I applaud the pro-life view because I consider abortion, under most circumstances, a murdering of the innocent. However, many if not most of the politicians who parade themselves as the paragon of Christianity because of their defense of the unborn are eager to instigate, initiate and promote a war that will massacre the already born. In God's view, the already born is more important than the unborn.
I think one of the greatest lacks nowadays in politics especially, but also in many other areas is self-criticism. Unless one recognizes his mistakes, he is doomed to repeat them. To conclude, our only hope for the world is His return.
Xenophobia had its downside perhaps but it was essentially beneficial, making that cultural individuality possible. The philosophers and prophets could see beyond the borders to a degree, but they were visionaries, not generally senators or governors. The church was the only real common ground for all, and the unity it truly provided could only be accessed through the narrow door one could only pass through by taking up one’s cross.
All other attempts at unity have been for the benefit of an elite oligarchy or culture at the expense of oppressed colonists, because all they wanted was what this world had to offer, and they had their reward. Now that the worldlings have had their way for a while longer, all humankind has been dumped in the blender and turned into the cultural equivalent of mashed potatoes, slathered in the gravy slapped on us by Hollywood, Fox, CNN or BBC, and whatever cultural individuality that still exists only reaches us through the holes of a salt shaker as a severely attenuated condiment, not a main ingredient.
And the mashed masses are led to believe they’re beneficiaries, not victims, because they are told they are individuals and can choose their own preferred entertainment channel, brand of ketchup or designer clothes or gender. But human attempts to please a majority of the people most of the time will be a pitiful imitation of an erstwhile reality—wonder bread instead of real stone ground whole grain. It has not solved any real problems.
MB, I'd heard the same, though not firsthand ... "Money is better in the States but the way of life and quality of life is better here."
I agree with DavidJB, are we talking about immigration, per se? I don't know who's against it, Republican or Democrat. I think the question is illegal immigration ... which, as a sidebar point, costs the US tax payers double digit billions of dollars, no exaggeration, while legal immigration pays for itself by productive people who want to come here to make more money, have a better life, or whatever.
IMO, there's nothing wrong with legal, illegal is criminal, by definition, but the water gets muddied by the politics. The reason for tightening the border, as I originally understood it, was to get a handle on the flow of illegals, and once there was a handle go from there.
In the hotel, I started chatting with a Mexican man (US Citizen) who had just come to Nogales from Wash DC to meet with several representatives and govt. officials about the whole immigration/refugee issue. I told him that I live in Mexico, I’m a US citizen and I sincerely interested in his insight into the situation and could he enlighten me?
His answer was very simple and to the point. “Listen, the issue is so complicated and complex and not easy to make black and white.” I got the point he didn’t want to waste his time and energy explaining it to me.
I think it’s a lot like the Palestinian/Jewish issue in the Mideast. Someone I know well, who was extremely pro-Palestinian went to the MidEast to document his points of views. He talked to Palestinians and then went to Israel to talk to Rabbis and Jews. He came back more balanced and started a website to educate people and try to promote dialogue.
When money and politics get involved, it gets very complicated.
I felt that I needed to comment on this issue, as I live in the country with the largest refugee population in the world and I have been working with refugees since 2012, and full time with refugees since late 2016. My city is 15% refugees, and I work in a town with a 60% refugee population.
I am quite distant from some of these migrant issues, tucked away in a little corner of Turkey, but can share a little bit about my positive experiences working with refugees.
If anything, I would encourage people to get to know refugees, if they haven’t yet. My sister gave me the book “This Flowing Toward Me: A Story of God Arriving in Strangers” written by a nun, Sister Marilyn Macey, who works with refugees. She writes how she found God through working with refugees. Here is an excerpt from an interview with her:
“My experience has been that interacting with strangers is the window unto God, the God who is Other. It’s my genuine experience; it’s not some theory or theology that I’m writing about. It’s my day-to-day experience, and most Americans don’t have those opportunities. We’re so insular here in the Untied States. We’re all brothers and sisters. I feel it in my gut. A person can always start right where they are by simply working to become more welcoming of strangers. Smile at the person in front of you at the grocery line. Open up a little bit to conversation. Make links and friendships with somebody that’s not in your circle.
The book title comes from a Rumi poem that she read. Rumi wrote,
“For sixty years I have been forgetful, every moment, but not for a second
has this flowing toward me slowed or stopped.”
“It struck something so deep in me that tears just started jumping out of my eyes. No matter how busy I am in my life, how distracted, how I pay attention to all the wrong things, that doesn’t matter, because the whole time, God’s goodness and presence is still flowing toward me without interruption. It doesn’t depend on anything that I do. Religion would have us believe that we have to somehow be good enough to get God’s grace or that we have to be serious and watchful, walking the narrow path. That’s just wrong. No matter how we are, God is there for us. We can never fully comprehend this, but even the slightest realization of that is just overwhelming. It is like this waterfall that we are standing underneath and somehow not even realizing it. But if you realize it for a tiny bit, then suddenly this experience brings a deep contemplative understanding that God is the host welcoming us all the time and we are the guests.” (End of excerpt)
I thought it interesting that this nun had her life so radically changed by working with refugees.
I did a little write up on my 2nd trip to the Syrian border during the final days of the siege of Aleppo in late 2016. I went with a UK businessman and our long time Syrian volunteer Talal. Here is the part of the post:
Tears on the Border
“We weren’t prepared for what we were about to see. We entered this little hut, with nothing in the windows except torn plastic in the window frame. In the entrance room, there were ten little orphans with only one parent to take care of them. (In Syria, an orphan is someone who loses their mother or father, not necessarily both—these children had lost all but one!) There were only uncles, cousins and relatives helping to take care of this mob of children. They were from three different families, eking out a living on the edges of this border town. One group of siblings had lost their mother to a sniper’s bullet while they were passing through eastern Aleppo’s safe passage corridor.
Over New Year’s, we drove to the Syrian border to assist the many refugees pouring in. It was not our plan, but something the Lord forced us into, to break our hearts for these dear people, and to give us a greater understanding of the magnitude of this dire situation.
It was a time of such contrasts: the deep sadness when a widow shares her story versus the deep abiding joy you find when a child’s face lights up in laughter after receiving a simple gift; agonizing on how can you dry the tears of a heart that is crying, wishing you could do so much more; wondering why there has to be so much death, yet rejoicing to see people who have lived so close to death so full of life.
It was difficult for Talal to be so close to Syria where his family lives and whom he hasn’t seen for three and a half years.., but then he goes and hugs the orphan kids and says, “When I hug them, I see my little brothers who I miss so much.” It is easy to shed a tear… so many thoughts run through your mind and they are hard to sort out, but we were happy we went and feel privileged to share the gifts that people had sent to help these in dire need.
At the end of our guests’ visit, after spending three full days from 9 in the morning to 10 at night visiting orphans, dear Talal broke down and wept. It is difficult to see a 24 year old man cry. Through his tears, he sobbingly said how he misses his mother, so longing for comfort for both his heart and the children that we visited. There wasn’t a dry eye in the car, and now retelling the border trip to others, tears just seem to flow naturally, when you recall the beautiful children, living is such poverty and loss, yet somehow, still maintaining their childhood. There is some type of Beauty for Ashes through all this madness.
I never fully realized just how hellish war is, the real costs of it, these lives that will be scarred forever. We just hope that our visits can give some type of hope for the future. Widows break down in tears when we handed them cash, and bring them a prayed-for, yet unbelievable, miracle of provision in the midst of their desperate situation. They seem just so thankful to taste a little bit of heaven after so much hell. And they do feel hope, that there are people in the world who care.”
When you have tea with a newly arrived refugee, for them, there is no past, the past is gone, shattered, bombed, broken; there is no future but uncertainty, difficulties, storm clouds etc. Yet, they are often so alive in the present, because the present is the only thing they have. I think that is really true for all of us, if we think about it, we only have the guarantee of now. It made me value more each moment I am with people.
My heart goes out to the Syrians. They took in the Palestinian refugees since 1948. They took the Lebanese into their very homes during the long Lebanese civil war. They took in over a million Iraqi refugees during the two Gulf wars. Yet, when it came time for them to be a refugee, they met a lot of hostility.
I can relate to what the nun wrote above about “finding God in the refugee.” There are verses how the Lord lives with the humble, the broken and the contrite. I find that the more I go to the lowest of the low, the more I sense God’s spirit working there.
I have been able to speak at some small venues while in the States, and I often share the story of our volunteer, a former rebel, who has changed so much. Again, it was late 2106, a widow called us saying we need to come and help this family who had just came over from Syria. The father was 95% paralyzed, they had three young girls and the mother was seven months pregnant. Their situation was deplorable.
Our volunteer Talal, took them home, gave them his own bedroom while he camped out in the living room, until we could raise up sponsorship to rent a flat for them. I ask the audience, how many of us, as Christians, would give up our own bedroom for a refugee. The consideration the refugees often show to each other puts me to shame. A wonderful update on this story is that the man mentioned above has received our Best Friend, and so has our volunteer.
It is interesting that the only time the word Religion is used in the New Testament, it has to do with orphans and widows, of which so many refugees are.
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
All that to say, yes, reach out to refugees! The fruit is worth it all!
(p.s. – We have had some negative experiences with refugees too, some with deep psychological problems due to the war and hell they have lived through, the choices that they made. I was mainly trying to bring out the positive here.)
Photo: Refugee Realities: Grandmother with two of her 14 grandchildren. All her seven sons save one were slaughtered when Isis took over her village. The short-haired girl on her right had to dress and behave as a boy in order to avoid rape in their tent city. Widows and daughters of widow are prone to be victims of rape as they have no one to protect them.