Advent and the Global Compact on Migration

I’ve asked a friend to do a guest post on the Global Compact on Migration which is posted here.  Sam Chaise formerly led Canadian Baptist Ministries and now works with refugees in the Toronto area at the Christie Refugee Welcome Centre .  Needless to say he has had a global perspectives on issues including the migrant and refugee issues.  I thought his faith and global perspective combined would be beneficial as we work through the issues we face on these topics.

Before I posted Sam’s post I wanted to share some thoughts that have been ruminating in my mind.

I don’t always wade into politics, especially on my blog.  The reason is the attacks I get when I do can be overwhelming.  We are passionate about our politics, however we haven’t learned as a society to speak respectfully with those who have differing view points.   My goal in posting is to discuss a significant issue and hopefully encourage us to thoughtful and respectful dialogue.

The issue of the Global Compact on Migration has been in the forefront in Canadian politics with some significant opposition.  On one hand I understand the hesitation and concerns.  In fact a number of years ago I might have even held those views.  You see, there are two ways I can respond.  I can take my common sense and say what I think, or I can reflect on what scripture says and apply it to the situation.  I want to do the latter, not the former, in my life.  Common sense to me says close our borders!  Protect who can come in to this great country!  Isolationism is a very easy position to hold and justify.  Letting in refugees and migrants comes at a cost and at times much sacrifice.  There is risk involved including the risk that we will need to change as a people.  So I get why people want to close the doors to our country.

I’ve learned that my common sense may be common in the world, but scripture is not about human common sense – it’s about honouring God with our life and having hearts that reflect who God is.   While some feel that faith and politics don’t mix, I would argue that as followers of Jesus Christ they do mix, and we’re called to let our faith influence our politics.

So what does scripture say about the Global Compact on Migration?   I think the fact that this is the season of Advent is very timely and lends itself well to this issue.  There are a number of scripture passages I Can pull into this reflection, but I will stick with four.  I’ll share them and a brief reflection on each that skims through my thought process.  In other words here are some of the highlights of my thoughts on this issue, but in no way is it a comprehensive view of my thoughts.

First, from the Old Testament prophet Amos chapter 5:

“I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Advent and Christmas is full of our celebrations, our singing, and much more.   We see here God does not care for those things, but instead desires to see justice and righteousness.  This is a season where we come with expectation of what God has done, is doing, and will do.  Part of that we are involved in.  As we celebrate this season, where do justice and righteousness fit into the picture?  Are we ensuring migrants and refugees are treated with dignity and respect?  As people in the wonderful nation of Canada do we not feel that others from around the world deserve the same basic respect we offer in this country?

Second, Mary and Joseph were migrants. Read the Christmas story in Luke 1-2.   The travelled to Bethlehem for a census and had to find a place to stay, and found that the accommodations were rather lacking compared to what we feel is just and fair for a pregnant woman.  There was no room for Mary where she stayed.  Not only were they migrants, they became refugees when they escaped to Egypt to protect Jesus from King Herod’s slaughter of all the boys age two and under.  As we look at the refugee and migrant situation are we willing to say there is room for them, or will we say there is no room for them like it was said to Mary?

A final passage to tie the first two together, this time from the gospel of Matthew, chapter 25:

The Sheep and the Goats

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

One more verse that ties into this passage above, this time from Hebrews 13:2:

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Are we willing to show justice to those who have none?  Are we willing to stand up for those no one else will?  Are we willing to care for those who are hungry, who are without decent clothes, who are enslaved by the economic systems of this world, or those who are strangers in our midst?  We’re told clearly, what we do to those people we do to Christ.  Hebrews tells us when we show people hospitality we could be entertaining angels.

What are you willing to do for Christ when it comes to the issue of migration or the issue of refugees?  Are you willing to walk away from attempts to rectify the issue, and if so what alternative is being promoted in its place?

No system is perfect, and as sinful, broken people no agreement is perfect, but there are agreements that can reflect God’s desire for the world around us even when it comes at our discomfort, and at our expense.  The question is what does the heart of God want?

As we approach Christmas I can remember as a child saying I would never be the innkeeper… I would give Mary my room.  Perhaps you had the same sentiment saying you would never turn Mary and baby Jesus away.  The question is aren’t we turning Jesus away when we don’t advocate for the rights of migrants and refugees.

So those are a few pieces to the theological reflection that has been shaping my response to this topic.  There are other passages such as the Good Samaritan that also play into my views.  Perhaps you oppose it, but then I would love to hear how you root your perspective in scripture and your understanding of who God is and what God desires of us.  If you’re not a person of faith, I would still value to hear your perspective on the issue in a respectful manner.  I don’t expect people to agree with me, or even my theology.  I do hope though we can discuss and dialogue with a value for one another, and hopefully with shared faith undergirding our conversations.  Advent is more than about a celebration of a babe.  It is in part of expectation including the expectation of God’s justice and righteousness being made known in the world, particularly through the birth of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with Us.    I hope our views reflect that righteousness and justice as we proclaim God’s love for the world in this season.