How Should Christians Respond To The Syrian Refugee Crisis?

God has given us all of scripture to look at, including ministry examples from the life of Christ. There are several factors regarding the modern refugee crisis in Syria that God gives wisdom in scripture on.

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Christ came to change our hearts and not to enact any political change. Despite the atrocities of Rome, He did not preach the overthrow of Rome, but preached a Heavenly kingdom. His ministry was one of reconciliation to God (II Cor 5:18), not about peace between nations. Jesus did not free the Israelite captives, but he brought Gentiles into the fold (Eph 2:11-13).

Yet God has given us all of scripture to look at, and not just the life of Christ (II Tim 3:16). There are several factors regarding the modern refugee crisis in Syria that God gives wisdom in scripture on.

Treatment of foreigners and strangers residing alongside us:

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We should treat temporary residents, aliens, and strangers with hospitality (Heb 13:2) and with justice (Deut 24:17, Deut 10:18, Jer 22:3, Ezek 22:29, Mal 3:5). As such, we should be welcoming to legal immigrants, to temporary workers, and to others who have been granted permission to temporarily or permanently reside in the country. This includes the two-thousand+ refugees from Syria that have been granted asylum in the US since 2011.

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Treating others how we would wish to be treated, and keeping things in perspective, helps us show kindness to strangers as well. The people of Israel were once aliens residing in Egypt (Ex 23:9), and our citizenship is in Heaven (Phil 3:20). We are not of the world; we are now strangers to it in Christ (John 18:38).

Loving our enemies:

Unfortunately, not every settlement of refugees goes smoothly. Some places have faced harassment, violence, disease, etc. In wake of resettlement. In these cases, as individuals and believers we should ‘bless those who curse us’ and ‘pray for those who mistreat us’. (Luke 6:28, Matt 5:43-45). This does not mean that those who do violence are free from civil justice (Is 1:17), or that we cannot protect family and home (Ex 22:2), but this does mean that as individuals our response should not be to respond in kind (Rom 12:17), but rather to turn the other cheek (Lam 3:30, Matt 5:39).

Respond in love, not fear:

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The Syrian refugee crisis is particularly heart-breaking as many are taking advantage of it. Many have pretended to be refugees in order to gain resettlement, terrorists have hidden among the refugees, and many of the Muslim refugees themselves have attempted to force Christian refugees to convert to Islam, and chased those Christian’s who refused out of the refugee camps to keep them from being resettled.

As such, there are very real concerns for physical safety for the countries taking refugees in, and for individuals living in those countries. Many Gulf nations have refused to resettle any refugees at all because of this, leaving most of the resettlement in the hands of Turkey and Europe.

Here it helps to again remember that physical safety is not our primary concern (John 12:25), but rather our relationship with God and our mission to spread the gospel. We can respond to the world with boldness, even in the face of suffering or potential harm. (II Tim 1:8)

Political wisdom:

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Nations are allowed to set laws to regulate who enters their borders. Egypt had strict entrance policies, even a long wall to keep invaders out, in the era where Abraham visited and when Joseph settled there. Israel also had policies regarding temporary residents and visiting aliens, namely that they were bound to many of the same laws. (Num 15:16-29)

As individuals, to the degree we are able, we should promote and stand behind wise governing of our respective nations. [That said, we ourselves must be subject to governing authorities (Rom 13:1-5)].

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