So Many Refugees!
The Tired, the Poor, the Huddled Masses
Today more than sixty-four million refugees remain homeless! Women and children, men young and old—all of them refugees from war, famine, disease, ethnic cleansing as well as civil and religious contention.
What has caused this recently expanding refugee crisis? What is the world’s on-going response to those needs? Can internationally organized efforts solve the problems facing refugees? Regarding refugees in Africa, Asia and the Middle East—how have neighboring countries been challenged? Why are most nations now resisting accepting refugees? What about those attempting to cross the US southern border to seek asylum?
Why, after having received a quarter million refugees have some European Union nations been willing to pay over 6 billion Euros ($7 billion) to Turkey—in order to return Syrian refugees to the very country through which they escaped?
“The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was created in 1950, during the aftermath of the Second World War, to help millions of Europeans who had fled or lost their homes. (Three years were allowed to complete that work and then disband.)
In 1954, the UNHCR actually won the Nobel Peace Prize for its groundbreaking work in Europe…. In 1956, during the Hungarian Revolution, 200,000 fled to neighboring Austria. Recognizing the Hungarians as 'prima facie' refugees, UNHCR led efforts to resettle them. This uprising and its aftermath shaped the way humanitarian organizations would deal with refugee crises in the future.” (UNHRC)
But over the past decade attitudes toward refugees have changed. The reasons for change could be economics, politics, religion or ethnic/racial issues? How are refugees generally viewed? Is it with sympathy and compassion—or with suspicion, fear or even distain?
Besides Turkey and Europe—Lebanon and Jordan have felt the brunt of the Syrian rebellion refugee crisis. Is there anyone willing to open their collective arms to welcome these desolate strangers? Who has responded with charity or love? Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, made a commitment to accept about two hundred thousand–taking what others would consider a politically risky, thankless task at the cost of several billions of dollars to settling them into Germany. Eventually, Germany’s generosity had reached a limit.
But where does our world conscience go from here? It is difficult to sum up the broad extent of the extreme struggles faced in the present plight of the Syrians, the people of Darfur, the Liberians, the Congolese, the Nigerians, the ravaged Rohingya Muslims, the Yazidis and others coming to the Mediterranean from south of the Sahara. Most recently the English speaking separatists of Cameroon have created a crisis for tens of thousands while trying to establish an independent Republic of Ambzonia.
In Greece over one million refugees entered the country in just two years (2015-2016). On the shores of the Greek Island of Lesbos, one refugee assistance team, part of IsraAID, waited as large rafts work their way to safety. The teams included young Israeli doctors, nurses and volunteers—Jewish as well as Christian Arab citizens of Israel—are capable of providing medical care. Syrians were welcomed and comforted by hearing Arabic from the multilingual team—especially after surviving their death-defying escape by land and sea. Israelis have put their shoulders to healing the nations—a good example of their long-prophesied role. (Isaiah 2:2-4; Galatians 3:8)
One documentary, Human Flow (Amazon Studios), describes the global crisis of refugees and takes the viewer along the land and sea routes for an intense experience to better understand the plight. Speaking of such paths, one group has geographically described the “Refugee Highway” as it exists across the world. The map identifies the countries where there are dangerous routes being traveled, hoped for destinations and countries that have resettled victims.
In the Law given to Moses—God showed principles of love and mercy as well as justice that directed the Israelites by setting higher standards for living. The Jews were to care for the stranger and the needy (Leviticus 19:33-34). Moses, mandated that Israel establish six “cities of refuge” to which one might flee until their innocence could be judged (Numbers 19:2, 9). It was a legal protection for the innocent victims of accidents they caused.
Who will have and show the spirit of compassion—as in the words immortalized on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, standing at the entrance to the NY/NJ harbor: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free….”
Biblical Refugee Experiences
In the days of Isaiah (8th Century B.C.), Assyrian armies entered the Holy Land forcing a massive migration. The population of the ten-tribe Kingdom of Israel was decimated and foreigners were replanted in place of Israelites.
The coming of the Chaldeans (7th Century B.C.) further depopulated the Land. Three consecutive raids removed most of the Jewish population in the days of Jeremiah—taking them to Babylon. When the first Temple was destroyed in 606 B.C., it began a 2,500-year oppression of the children of Israel by Gentile peoples.
Persecution of Jews in Rome under Emperor Claudius (A.D. 49) forced the expulsion of the young Christians Aquila and Priscilla along with the Jews. (But fleeing to Corinth was a providence that made it possible for them to meet and work with the Apostle Paul.)
In A.D. 73, after the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem, Jewish zealots and their families occupied King Herod’s mountain retreat at Masada—their refuge. It was a desperate attempt to avoid Rome’s iron fist. But after a valiant attempt to resist, they chose death rather than slavery for themselves.
In A. D. 135 the Roman Hadrian crushed the final Judean rebellion, enslaving hundreds of thousands of Jews putting an end to Jewish presence in Jerusalem. He also altered the name of the “Holy Land” calling it Palestina—determined to further eradicate the name Judea. (Rome took captives and the Jews from over 900 cities and villages and sold them into slavery.)
These final events early in the Christian era continued the refugee crisis for the Jew that lasted over eighteen centuries. But the end of that “diaspora” was dramatically marked in 1878 when Jews were able to purchase land and establish the community Petah Tikva—a “Gate of Hope” (See Hosea 2:14,15). There the fulfillment of prophecy inspired the hearts of the Jews of Palestine and especially those of Eastern Europe.
The Prophet Amos wrote:
Amos 9:14, 15
“Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel, And they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them; They will also plant vineyards and drink their wine, And make gardens and eat their fruit. I will also plant them on their land, And they will not again be rooted out from their land Which I have given them," Says the LORD your God.”
In A. D. 1948, as a result of the re-creation of the State of Israel, 800,000 Jewish refugees driven from Arab countries managed to get to Israel where they were incorporated into the population. They were evicted from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen. They, along with Jews from Iran, Iraq and Syria left behind their property and their wealth—but were welcomed by their brothers and sisters—the Israelis. This is indeed a wonderful outcome for the Jew to reside in his homeland—promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob by God Himself. (Genesis 22:17)
Arabs who stayed in Israel have citizenship and the right to vote—they have elected fellow Arabs to the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament). Sadly, the Arab Palestinians (who left what became Israel) were placed in refugee camps actually run by the Arabs of host countries. There they have remained for generations … essentially unaccepted by their Arab brothers, but kept as refugees—an open wound.
Humanity’s Larger Refugee Crisis
But is there any solution for the refugees of the rest of the world? Refugees are not the only ones who have experienced the results of sin. Every man, woman and child that has ever been born has been seeking refuge from the sin inherited in their human frames—a result of the disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in the Garden (Genesis 3:17-19).
Consequences of Disobedience in Eden
Adam and Eve’s disobedience has resulted in their children sharing all manner of woe since eviction from the Garden: sickness, wars, plagues, famines, sorrows, pains and eventually death itself. The present world refugee crisis is just another symptom of man’s inability to manage without God and their redeemer, our Lord Jesus. But redemption from Adam’s sin has required first the payment of a Ransom price (antilutron, Gk.) to settle the account of Adam’s disobedience (1 Timothy 2:5,6). Christ’s Ransom has provided the basis for salvation. Those who now accept the justifying blood of Jesus during the Christian age and then wish to lay down their own lives in sacrifice with the Lord, enter the path of adoption into God’s family. All of Jesus’ fully committed disciples since Pentecost have walked a Narrow Way path to their heavenly refuge of salvation.
But Jesus also promised a time when “all who are in their grave shall hear the voice of the Son of Man and come forth”…to “life” and…to a trial of “judgment” (krisis Gk.) John 5:29. That awakening will make possible the opportunity for Earth’s billions to also be blessed. Isaiah 35 describes the Kingdom Jesus taught his disciples to pray for, when he said to them: “Thy kingdom come thy will be done in Earth as it is in Heaven.”
The Kingdom’s Highway of Holiness
So then, all human refugees will have the opportunity to learn how to return “Home.” We also know that God loved us so much that he eventually sent his own Son for all. “As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). The fact is that the same Satan who used the Serpent in the Garden of Eden to deceive Eve and tempt Adam to sin—has influenced mankind for thousands of years. He is the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). But he will be bound to “deceive the nations no more” (Revelation 20:3).
But now there is only one path open—the “Narrow Way” of following the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Christians are challenged daily along that “way” by Satan. Yes, that has been true for almost 2,000 years (1 Peter 5:8). But during the Messianic Kingdom of Christ the accuser of the brethren, Satan, will be bound for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1-3). The way then open will be a “highway”—a “highway of Holiness”—and it will be opened for all (Isaiah 35:10). Finally all the Refugees—all mankind—will have their first real opportunity (with the sympathetic assistance of Jesus and his Bride) to fully turn to God, their Father—their Creator. They, as brothers, will ultimately arrive at their Beautiful, Wonderful Home on God’s Paradise Earth!
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