Refugees are God’s image-bearers. They are students, bankers, teachers, farmers, businesspeople, lawyers, stay-at-home parents—but their lives have been upended by persecution, war, or violence. “A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group” (United Nations definition).
Canada has often been a place of welcome for refugees--from the welcome of Vietnamese people in the 1970s to welcoming Syrians more recently. And Canadian congregations, including many Christian Reformed congregations, have been an important part of that work of the Holy Spirit!
There is work to be done. Non-Syrian refugees and their sponsors are still waiting for faster processing times. Families are still waiting to be reunified. Refugees need communities to thrive in and contribute to. And Canada needs them.
Welcoming refugees can draw our communities together in new ways, contribute to the lively diversity of our country, and even call us to become the church that Jesus calls us to be—turned from the temptation to wring our hands about shrinking budgets and diminishing cultural influence toward courageous, faithful action for the sake of others.
“Refugees need communities to thrive in and contribute to. And Canada needs them.”
For decades now, CRC members have discovered the face of Christ among those seeking refuge—and the story continues. Read stories of CRC congregations and members all around the U.S. and Canada welcoming, helping to resettle, and being blessed by refugees in our Welcoming Refugees project!
The Bible tells the stories of many refugees, people forced to flee their homes because their lives were in danger. Our Savior, Jesus, and his family fled to Egypt. Paul had to be lowered from an opening in the wall of Damascus to escape persecution after he became a Jesus-follower. Aquila and Priscilla, early church leaders, were forced to leave Rome, along with many other Jews, by the Emperor Claudius. Many of the “great cloud of witnesses” were refugeed people.
Again and again, God reminds his people that we were once foreigners—the Israelites were once oppressed in Egypt, and we all were once estranged from God—and now we must treat with hospitality those who are not native-born in this country. God even goes so far as to say, “Love them as yourself” (Lev. 19:33-34)!
Scripture is also rich with examples of people welcoming strangers only to find out that those strangers brought unexpected blessing. As the writer of Hebrews says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Heb. 13:2). It takes a neighbourhood to welcome a refugee, but it also takes a refugee to make a neighbourhood. When we welcome as Christ welcomes us, we may well be transformed.