Jesus Was a Refugee

The Flight into Egypt by Giotto di Bondone

The Flight into Egypt by Giotto di Bondone

Jesus was a refugee.

He and his parents fled a vicious pogrom against the babies of Bethlehem, of which he was the target. Egypt opened its borders and provided a home for this child until the jealous king who sought his death found the death he sought for others.

We were refugees. Many of our forbears sought refuge in this country from famine, economic destitution, political tyranny and religious persecution. The church denomination of which I am a part came to this country as refugees seeking freedom of religion when they could be forcibly drowned simply for teaching a baptism of immersion.

My city has been a haven for refugees. We host the second largest Somali population in North America with over 45,000 living in different neighborhoods across our city. Many families came here in 1991 when warlords made life in Somalia a life and death struggle. Babies then are Buckeyes now, students at Ohio State and other U.S. universities. Somalis have bought homes, paid taxes, run businesses. It has been hard because of fears of ties with terror organizations. Yet the actual incidents of this have been few, but widely publicized. Do we give the same publicity, I wonder, to native-born citizens also drawn into these organizations?

Now refugees are pouring into Western countries from Syria. The estimates are that three million have fled Syria and 6.5 million are internally displaced, many in refugee camps in the country. So far our country has accepted 1500 refugees or .5 percent of those who have fled the country. We say we’ll take 10,000 more.

I’ve heard all the arguments against taking more–the costs, the risks. No doubt there is some truth in all of it. There are those more learned than I who can parse all this out. I’m stuck back at the first sentence in this post:

Jesus was a refugee.

This is the same Jesus who later said, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ (Matthew 25:40, NIV).

It makes me wonder, if Jesus had sought refuge in America, would we have closed our borders? And if we did, what would that have meant for the world? And what about the many other refugees who came to our country? Albert Einstein, Elie Wiesel, Bela Bartok, Madeline Albright, Miriam Makeba, Isabel Allende, and Henry Kissinger are but a few.

I do not mean to suggest that we turn a blind eye to risks. But it seems that in the hysterical fears that would close our borders, we may protect ourselves from terror at the risk of excluding those who might be our saviors, or who may immensely enrich our society by their genius and unique contributions.

Jesus was a refugee.

One thought on “Jesus Was a Refugee

  1. Pingback: The Rest of the Best 2015 | Bob on Books

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