Biblical Position On “Refugees”, “Immigrants” and “Strangers” – Testimony of a Jesuit Priest, By Adeolu Ademoyo
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph knew life as refugees, so let us also begin this encounter within our own families…” – US Conference of Catholic Bishops on the observation of the annual National Migration week; January 8-14.
Global Christianity is facing a serious challenge. It is a challenge about the account of the truth of the Bible. But the reason for this is that some of us Christians do not see Christianity as a faith where we are enjoined to live the Gospel intentionally. Rather these Christians have turned Christianity into a cultural and political ideology.
The recent bans on refugees and immigrants in many countries whose presidents and prime minsters claim to be “Christians” and whose elections were supported by those who claim to be “Christians”, have raised important questions about the truth of Christianity as witnessed and written in the Bible. Hence, given the recent bans on “refugees”, new “immigrants” and “strangers” in some countries whose heads profess to be “Christians”, the fundamental question is: Is Christianity a universal and necessary faith (devoid of race, ethnicity, gender) in a living God or is “Christianity” a cultural and political ideology of a country that has become a tool to transmit the racial, ethnic, gender, political and cultural views of people in government and in power?
Even when we members of the laity have significant roles to play in explaining and proclaiming the Gospel to the world, the anti-refugee, anti-new immigrant, anti-stranger actions of those “Christians” who have turned Christianity into an ideology can call to question God as unity and love. But to show why such anti-refugee, anti-new immigrant, and anti-stranger actions of these “Christians” contradict the Bible, and does not reflect Christianity as a faith, where we are enjoined to live the Gospel intentionally, I did a brief search and found an American Catholic Jesuit priest – Fr. James Martin, S.J. ON for illumination.
I find Fr. James Martin interesting because he relies only on the Bible in his testimony. In other words, rulers who claim to be “Christian” and who are anti-refugee, anti-new immigrant, and anti-stranger can still hold on to their position only if they do not claim to be carrying out a “Christian” agenda. In other words they cannot call their anti-refugee, anti-new immigrant, anti-stranger agenda “Christian.”
Given what the Bible says, these anti- positions have nothing to do with the Bible, and hence do not reflect the truth of Christianity. Here in matters of the truth of Christianity, the Bible is the only reference; hence alternative facts and alternative truths are irrelevant and not helpful.
“…God is reminding the Israelites that they were themselves aliens once when they were in exile in Egypt. The Old Testament reminds us of this in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. In fact the book of Deuteronomy says, “God Loves the stranger.” (Deut 10:18). Psalm 146 echoes this, saying “The Lord protects the strangers” (Psalm 146).
Fr. James Martin, S.J. ON is a Jesuit priest. His testimony is in the form of a video recording and was first published on the Facebook page of the “America Magazine – The Jesuit Review”. Because Fr. James Martin’s only reference is the complete universal, necessary, eternal and divine truth of the Bible, I have nothing to add. I am therefore reporting Fr. James Martin verbatim. Please read:
“The question of how to treat migrants and refugees is making headlines these days. It is a contemporary question. It is also an old question, which is addressed, many times in the Jewish and Christian traditions. So it is worth asking: what does the bible say about how we are supposed to treat refugees, migrants and foreigners?
“Well it is pretty clear, and it starts all the way back in the book of Exodus. God tells Moses, and through him the whole people of Israel: ‘You shall not oppress the resident alien among you. You know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.’ That’s two messages from God. First, care for the refugees. In the ancient near–East, as outsider people without attachment to a clan foreigners were vulnerable and often poor, just like migrants and refugees today, so they need a special help.
“Second, God is reminding the Israelites that they were themselves aliens once when they were in exile in Egypt. The Old Testament reminds us of this in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. In fact the book of Deuteronomy says, “God Loves the stranger.” (Deuteronomy 10:18). Psalm 146 echoes this, saying “The Lord protects the strangers” (Psalm 146).
“The Hebrew Scriptures remind us of two essential things. First, God’s command to care for refugees, migrants and aliens. Second, God’s special love for them. In case we miss the point, in the book of Kings, King Solomon directs his people to pay attention to the foreigner who does not belong to your people, Israel, but has come from a distant land. And what are we to do? Solomon says, ‘Do according to all that the foreigner calls you to.’ (1 Kings 8: 43). In other words answer any need that the migrant or the refugee has.
“Jesus is even stronger about this in the New Testament. In the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10 25-37), from the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the story of a Jewish man going from Jerusalem to Jericho…who is robbed and beaten. As he is lying by the side of the road, two people pass by, a priest and a Levite, both from the man’s own religious group. They were probably afraid to stop. The road to Jericho, which still exists, was notoriously dangerous and prone to robbers. Finally, a Samaritan man stops to help. Samaritans were the traditional opponents of the Jews; outsiders. Notice that the Samaritan does not care about the danger or may be he does and helps the man anyway.
If anyone professes to be Christian, he or she ought to go back to the Bible for no ideology, no racial group, no cultural group, no ethnic group, no political group, no gender group, no president, no prime minister, no national government, shall take anything away from this Biblical Truth…
“Jesus reminds us that we are called to help the stranger even if there is risk involved. Jesus does not say help the stranger only if it is risk-free or only if it is convenient, or only if that person is from the same religious group as you. No. Jesus said show mercy to the stranger regardless. He is also saying that just like the beaten man, our own salvation may depend on a stranger.
“In fact Jesus says that the way we treat strangers will be a litmus test for entrance into Heaven. At the last judgment he will say to some people (Mathew 25: 43), ‘I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me.’ And some people will answer, ‘Lord when did we see You as a stranger and not help You?’ And he will say that, ‘Every time you did not help a stranger you did not help Me.’ (Mathew 25: 45). That is the way it will be decided who enters Heaven says Jesus.
“And just in case you think this only applies to individuals, the traditional name for this passage in the New Testament might help. It is called ‘The Judgment of The Nations’. Perhaps the strongest message from Jesus is not what he said but what he did. After his birth, Mary and Joseph take Jesus from Israel to Egypt. Were there border guards and passports during what is called The Flight Into Egypt? No, but Mary and Joseph and their son were fleeing persecution and the threat of death at the hands of King Herod.
“So using the contemporary definition we can say that among all the refugees that our world has seen were Mary, Joseph and Jesus.”
This concludes Fr. James Martin’s testimony.
Because this testimony relies ONLY on the Bible, then this is the Truth of the Bible and nothing shall be taken away from this Truth. No one should substitute himself/herself for the Truth of the Bible. If anyone professes to be Christian, he or she ought to go back to the Bible for no ideology, no racial group, no cultural group, no ethnic group, no political group, no gender group, no president, no prime minister, no national government, shall take anything away from this Biblical Truth upon which Christianity derives its necessary, universal, eternal and divine Truth, soundness and validity, as the true revelation of God as Unity and Love.
Adeolu Ademoyo, firstname.lastname@example.org, is with the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.