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We need to ask: How are we treating strangers or refugees? This became a difficult political question in our times. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled their home countries and have arrived in European nations seeking shelter and support. So far this year, more than 366,402 refugees have made treacherous boat crossings across the Mediterranean Sea, often with tragic results. 2,800 people have died crossing the Mediterranean so far this year.
These people are risking their lives to reach Europe because they have nowhere else to go. 85% of the people arriving in Europe are from conflict-affected countries, fleeing violence and desperately seeking safety. More than half are from Syria, a country that has been embroiled in a brutal civil conflict for the past four years resulting in the exodus of more than 4 million refugees.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has confirmed Australia will extend its campaign of air strikes from Iraq into Syria, at the same time as announcing plans to “move quickly” to accept an extra 12,000 refugees affected by the conflict in both countries.
The extra permanent resettlement places will almost double this year’s refugee intake, and the boost is expected to cost the federal budget $700 million over the next four years.
What should we do as Christians and churches? We are concerned about the implications, but we know our calling is that we should portray the love of Jesus, plead for the oppressed and serve as Jesus served. Jesus emphasized serving others because that is His very heart-to serve others. He served us so perfectly that He died for us on the Cross.
In 1 Cor. 11:1 Paul asked the church to follow the example of Christ. They must literally follow Christ and do what He did. We need to speak out if there is injustice in Australia and all over the world and we need to show love to all the displaced, the hungry and the oppressed. This is through our prayers, our labour and our gifts. In James 2:15-17 the Holy Spirit taught us how: “if a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
Do we know how big our task has become as church of our Lord Jesus Christ? Our greatest calling is to honour God and to act like citizens of the Kingdom of God, and to proclaim the message of salvation in Jesus to all people! This is also through our deeds and acts of love! See this refugee crisis as another opportunity to do Kingdom Works and to serve as God’s people.