Thursday, December 03, 2015

Why Sponsor Refugees?

As a follower of Jesus for me it is very simple, I am called to love. I am called to love all people. There are no exceptions. I am to love those who even may be my enemies.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:43-48

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.
Luke 6:27-29

The Bible also calls us to pay special attention to the most vulnerable (Matthew 25:31-46; James 1:26-27). Refugees are among the vulnerable in our world today.

Now I know that there is a lot of debate about this. Many people do not find this situation that simple. In fact I am very aware that there are a lot of complex and difficult questions. I know that we cannot do everything. However as a follower of Jesus I am compelled to respond in love. Love requires some kind of action. We could discuss what kind of action should be taken. But no action means no love.

There are a few common objections I hear regarding sponsoring refugees. For some these are real concerns and expressed out of a place of love. However too often (like 90% of the time) these objections come from a lot of fear (and usually some a measure of hate). They are simply excuses for disobeying Jesus while trying to sound and look holy.

Now before I carry on allow me to fully confess. I do not love the way I am supposed to. Much of my life is lived in a selfish and self-centered way. I do not say this to sound good. Anyone who knows me knows that it is true that I am selfish. I want to be clear this blog is not about me being better than other people. I combat fear and selfishness every day (often failing). In fact I am worse than many others because I know the truth and what I am called to do, but I don’t do it. I often allow fear and selfishness dominate instead of the power of the Holy Spirit. The point of this blog is to call me (and others) to pursue love in obedience to Jesus who loves us.

It is too risky!

It is simply too dangerous for us to sponsor and bring refugees here, this objection says. The danger people feel is that Muslims will take over destroying our way of life or they will commit acts of terror in our country. (Both of these objections I will discuss below.) It is not surprising that people feel this way. Especially in light of the attacks in Paris.

So is there a risk? Yes. There is no point in denying this. Denying that there is a risk is I believe to ignore the truth.

However everything that we do in life involves risk. It is risky to have people minster in down town Winnipeg. It is risky to send teams into the prison to minster there. The question is not “is there risk?” Rather “is this risk reasonable?” We are debating “is the risk of bringing refugees reasonable?” This debate needs to be held not simply in light of society’s standards, which state that my safety and security is of ultimate priority, but rather we debate in light of seeking to follow and obey our master Jesus the Messiah.

They are all terrorists!

This argument comes in different flavors. On the extreme the argument says that all Muslims are terrorists. It suggests that the whole Syrian conflict is simply a massive cover up in order to sneak people into the Western world so that they can take over. On the more moderate side the argument says that the terrorists will use this refugee crisis as an opportunity to smuggle some terrorist cells into the Western world.

The extreme side has no basis in fact. The idea that the Syrian conflict is not real is a denial of the truth, actually it is a lie. Also there are many Muslims living in the Western world who are peace loving and good citizens. Those holding to this view know this, and the way they get around it is by saying that any Muslim who is not a terrorist is not a real Muslim. Just for the record some Muslims agree with them. These Muslims are killing those “so-called” Muslims. Hence we have a major refugee crisis in Syria. ISIS kills mostly Muslim people because those Muslim people refuse to join them and become terrorists.

Now regarding the more moderate side. I would not be surprised if it was true that terrorists are trying use the refugee crisis to sneak into the Western world. Though at this point there is no evidence one way or another. (Those who point to the attacks on Paris should note that most of the attackers were actually born in France and not “refugees” from Syria.) This is why we need to have security checks. We want to help those who need help and not just assist terrorists in travelling.

Now some argue saying “if you have a bag of M&Ms and one might be poisoned how many would you take?” The conclusion that we are to jump to is that if there is one terrorist then we should not allow any refugees in. This is a possible solution. However if we are going to follow that logic then we should ban everyone from every country from ever coming into our country. Take USA for example. They have drug dealers, criminals, and mass shootings. They have even had people go into schools and shoot children. Now most Americans are amazing people, like 99.99% of them. Every American I have meet has been a wonderful person, and would make fantastic neighbors. But if we allow any Americans in, then one of those bad people might sneak in. And if you bag of M&Ms…

So I believe we need to have security. There is a level of risk. But I believe that is not so great that we should not help and extend love to those in need. A final note, as a follower of Jesus safety and security should be considered but it is not our ultimate priority, following Jesus and obeying him (including the commands to love) is our priority.

They will take over and we will no longer be a Christian nation!

The reasoning here is that Muslims will take over simply because they have more children than Christians. This means that eventually Christians will be in minority and the Muslims will rule. Canada will not be a Christian nation instead we will become a Muslim nation.

First, a Christian nation that does not respond in love out of obedience to Jesus is not a Christian nation. Sponsoring refugees is not a threat to our Christian heritage. Refusing to sponsor them is a threat to our Christian heritage.

Second, Christians are not born. A person must choose to follow Jesus. It does not matter what position (or religion) someone was born into, everyone can become a follower of Jesus. The power of the Spirit is powerful enough to draw anyone to Christ. To deny this is to deny the gospel itself. A quick side note. This is one of the reasons I get upset when people claim that President Obama is a Muslim and not a Christian. Obama has publically stated he is a Christian. Some Christians have objected to this saying he was born a Muslim and therefore is a Muslim. Now I do not know Obama’s heart (that for God alone to judge) but Muslim can become a Christian. This is the gospel! To deny this is to deny Jesus.

The future of the church does not rest in Christians having babies. It rests in God himself, who through the power of the Holy Spirit is able to bring salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus to all people. My God is big enough to rescue and transform anyone.

One of the problems of the Western church has is that we don’t believe this. Too often we have thought that Jesus is not the only way to God. Why invite people to know Jesus, to become a Christian, if all ways lead to God? Or we have not experienced the power Spirit in our lives, thinking that Christianity is only about getting a ticket to heaven. If Christianity is only about getting a ticket and not being transformed then there is no real hope in reaching those who are radically opposed to him. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus is great enough to save even those radically opposed to him. We do not need to live in fear. Jesus said he will build his church (Matthew 16:18). I have enough faith to believe that he can live up to his promise.

We should take care of our own first!

This is a good objection. In fact this is a serious challenge to Christians. To be honest I find it easier to help people who are far away. Give some money and my obligation is finished. To take care of our own often requires true sacrifice. And it often means getting involved in messy situations over a long time. It is not glamorous and requires a lot of us. So this objection should not written off quickly.
However the objection implies that we cannot do both. Why can we not sponsor refugees and care for our own at the same time? Certainly we have enough resources.

This objection also implies that we are not taking care of our own people in Canada. My church is involved in sponsoring refugees. Yet this Sunday we invited people to help with Angel Tree, a program that gives presents to the children of inmates, we invited people to donate to the empty stocking fund for our community, and we invited people to sign up to serve at Inner City Youth Alive’s Christmas dinner. We are trying to take care of our own. Could we do more? Yes. However to think that sponsoring refugees means that we have to ignore our own is false.

Let me use my family for an example. I have three daughters. When my kids were born this did not lessen my love or care for my wife. When my second and third child were born it did not lessen my love and care for my first child. Instead I found that my love and care grew. I believe that sponsoring refugees offers us a chance for our love and care to grow, not to get less.

There is nothing that convinces me that we have to choose between sponsoring refugees and helping our own people.

We should help Christians and not Muslims!

This objection is based on the fact that as Christians we are brothers and sisters in Christ, and therefore family. Family should come first.

Perhaps an argument could be mounted that we should pay special attention to other Christians. However there are a couple of problems that immediately surface. First, special attention given to Christians does not mean that we neglect everyone else. We are called to love all people not just Christians. Second, most often this simply means do not sponsor Muslims. This has little to do with sponsoring Christians and much more about keeping Muslims out. Most often this reason is fueled by hatred and fear of Muslims and not love for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Just for the record in Canada we are not allowed to ask the religion of the person we are sponsoring. Yes, we can guess. But we do not know. We sponsor refugees because they were forced to abandon their homes and flee for their lives.

We do not have enough jobs! They will just be a drain on our system!

This is a double objection to bringing refugees. First, is that there is simply not enough jobs to sustain bringing these people in. Of course if this is actually true then perhaps we should stop all immigration. Now it is true that in some areas and places in Canada work is hard to come by. There are people who are unemployed and finding it difficult to find a job. However I am not convinced that this is true over all of Canada. The second part of this objection is that the refugees will choose not to work and end up being a drain on our economy.

I do not have any stats that inform me of how many refugees are gainfully employed. However I can share what I have personally seen in the refugees that have come to our community. (When the Syrian refugees arrive here they will not be the first refugee families my community has sponsored. As someone said this is not our first rodeo). So with the families that have been here for a while this is what I have seen. One went on to be an engineer, one started an automotive body shop, two started a barber business, and others work in some of the local industries in our community. They have not been a drain on our economy. They have shown a willingness to work and contribute.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


I wrote this in response to a question about how pacifist deal with the ISIS situation (which also mentioned WWII). It was asked by someone who is not a pacifist.

Pacifism is often rejected because it is not effective. Sometimes it has been very effective and other times it has not been. War has a similar track record. Sometimes it seems to have been effective and other times it has not been. Perhaps we could ask which is usually more effective, pacifism or war? Of course this raises up the question of how we define “effective”. Within the context you are talking is it simply stopping the blood-shed? If this is all we are talking about why do we not evacuate the whole area and let ISIS take the land? My guess is most of us will reject this idea. Which means that “effective” means more than just stopping the killings. So what is effective? Freedom and peace would part of those answers for me.
Second pacifism is to be rooted in love. Sure too often people use pacifism as an excuse for cowardice. But I will leave that alone for right now. Pacifism is rooted on Jesus’ command to love our enemy. Certainly there are difficulties. Like how we do love our enemies and love the victims of our enemies? But as followers of Jesus this problem needs to be wrestled with. In cannot be simply ignored. Is it love to drop a bomb on someone? Is it love to stand by and let someone be killed? Both questions need to be asked. Both need to be dealt with. We cannot ignore one because it is hard to answer. I do believe all simplistic answers are removed when struggling with these questions.

Now for the record (and this is why I am not a good pacifist) I think I believe that violence can be used to restrain evil. However I am completely convinced that it cannot bring peace.

A couple of comments on WWII. First, we should note that WWII is the direct result of a “successful” war, WWI. Second, people automatically assume that pacifism would not have worked in this situation. Why is that true? Is there any evidence? An example of a non-violent approach being taken in against the Nazi reign is the Rosenstrasse protest. Which were “effective”. Just because we cannot imagine non-violence working in WWII does not mean we right. After all I grew up in the 1980s when no one could imagine non-violence would over throw any communist nation.

What should we do with ISIS? Not 100% sure. Pray. I find it interesting that many believe they would be more “effective” with a gun then on their knees.

There are a couple of questions that I do ask regarding this though. Why is this the most pressing issue right now? I have friends who tell about their families being killed and murdered in their countries. And this has been happening for years. No news reports. No outcry from Christians that we should invade. Why not? Is it because we have no economic stake in their countries? Which leads me to ask is ISIS an issue because they kill people or because they may possibly threaten our economic status? Where did ISIS come from? They are the result of our invasions into Afghanistan and Iraq. Our “effective” and “successful” wars has led to a problem. Perhaps we should tread very carefully before simply saying invade once again.