When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34)
From its beginnings the Hebrew story was the story of a people in exile, of aliens resident in foreign lands suffering oppression and persecution. This history of exile and exodus, particularly the escape from slavery in Egypt, revealed to the Israelites the nature of their God and defined their relationship with God and other people. Throughout the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), God is identified as the God who cares for the exiled and the persecuted refugee. Hospitality to the stranger became one of the strongest moral forces in ancient Israel.
The Christian story continued to uphold God's call to solidarity with the homeless. Mary and Joseph were forced to take Jesus and hide in Egypt as Herod sought to kill the baby Jesus. Jesus travelled through strange lands, choosing to spend time and share meals with the most marginalised and oppressed people of his society. He called on people to love their enemies, give all they had to the poor, and offer hospitality to strangers. He taught that faithful obedience to God was marked by such deeds. In fact, it would be the way people responded to strangers and to the poor that would identify them as people of faith.
There is no question about the Christian response to asylum seekers and refugees. The Church is called to be a place of welcome. As faithful disciples we are to provide care and comfort to those who come to this land as strangers, seeking safety.
The Uniting Church advocates for a just response to the needs of refugees that recognises Australia's responsibilities as a wealthy global citizen, upholds the human rights and safety of all people, and is based on just and humane treatment, including non-discriminatory practices and accountable transparent processes.
For more worship resources produced by the Uniting Church, check out this website: https://www.unitingjustice.org.au/refugees-and-asylum-seekers/about
Resources for Refugee Week, June 16th - June 22nd 2019
Across Australia people are sharing meals in honour of Refugee Week. Conversations over food are a great way to engage in the issue and talk about values surrounding the issues that many refugees and people seeking asylum face today. If you and your church would like to participate, head to this website where you can learn how to run your own event and register it on the Refugee Week website. Thanks to the Refugee Council of Australia for organising this project.
You could also choose to help out people seeking asylum during Refugee Week. How about making a donation to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre's Winter Appeal? Check out all their great work at this site: https://www.asrc.org.au/bethedifference/
Another idea for Refugee week is advocacy. You could:
- hold a letter writing party and get your friends and family to write to your local senator or MP on the plight of people seeking asylum
- set up a meeting with your local MP or Senator to discuss the issue
- Sign the SRSS petition to help asylum seekers make ends meet: http://backyourneighbour.com.au/petition/
- Sign and share on social media, the I CHOOSE HUMANE Pledge https://www.choosehumane.org.au/
- send a postcard to the Victoria State government asking for concessions for water and energy bills by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org