Thoughts on a Refugee Crisis But No Solution

Photo credit BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images Photo credit BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images

The great human tragedy and resulting human suffering of mass migration out of the Mideast has been caused by the actions of certain adherents of Islam. These people bear full responsibility for what has happened to all these displaced people including all the deaths that have occurred. They should be held accountable by the world community for the evil they have done which certainly are crimes against humanity.

The mass migration has put many European countries to the test, and have challenged the moral values of Christians throughout the world. How should Christians respond to these aliens and strangers who come knocking at our borders? How do we treat migrants who themselves are related to people who have inflicted oppression and suffering on Christians?

In the past few months as I survived my chemotherapy, my heart and mind were often with these refugees. My suffering seemed small compared to theirs. Mine was limited, but for them, there is no end to the suffering in sight. Nevertheless my own suffering made me more acutely aware of theirs and far more compassionate toward them.

I don’t have any easy solutions to the issue, but some words from our scripture come to my mind. These words challenge my thinking as much as the presence of the suffering migrants who are fleeing war and violence. First words from the Torah:

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I command you this day for your good? Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it; yet the LORD set his heart in love upon your fathers and chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as at this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner therefore; for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.  (Deuteronomy 10:12-19)

God is a lover of these sojourners who are fleeing persecution. God so loved Israel in bringing them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. God, according to Deuteronomy, provides for such sojourners and expects us to treat them as He Himself treats them.

God is love.

In the New Testament we see how difficult it is to have sympathy for strangers and sojourners, especially when we see them as a threat or as enemies, not people.

Prophet Elijah Prophet Elijah
And Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them he went away.  (Luke 4:24-30)

Jesus reminds his fellow Jews of a simple truth in history. There were times when God did not bless or favor the Jews, but rather chose a foreigner, stranger or sojourner upon whom to shower His grace. That truth so enraged the Jews listening to Jesus that they wanted to kill Him.   They were the chosen people who enjoyed divine exceptionalism. They had no intention of letting Jesus point out to them how God acted with mercy and love toward a suffering Syrian.

We Christians need to remember these stories from our scriptures. We Orthodox just this past weekend read the Gospel lesson found in Luke 10:25-37 of the Good Samaritan in which the hero, the moral person in the story is a foreigner and it is this stranger, even enemy, who acts like God in displaying mercy toward a fellow human being.

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Icon of the parable of the Good Samaritan Icon of the parable of the Good Samaritan

In July, 1938, a poll of Americans asked whether Americans should accept refugees from Europe who were escaping political events there specifically the rise of fascism and the oppression it represented. At that time, 67% of Americans opposed allowing these refugees into America. Then following the events of Kristallnacht when it became clear that the oppression of Jews had already begun in Europe, Americans were polled by Gallup’s American Institute of Public Opinion in January 1939. Two-thirds of Americans still opposed bringing refugee children to America. Americans were overwhelmingly against bring 10,000 German Jewish refugee children into our country to help them escape persecution. We know the result of our unwillingness to take such Jewish refugees in at that time.

Jewish cemetery in Prague Jewish cemetery in Prague

We can not afford to take the Syrian refugees into our countries and we cannot afford not to. This situation has been seen in the world before. As Christians, we have God’s Word to guide out thinking. Clearly there are risks to follow and enact the teachings of Christ. On the other hand, there are eternal consequences for not following His teachings as well. We need to feel the pressure of this issue.

A few final thoughts:

This humanitarian crisis is the result of policies by Muslim leaders in Muslim countries. Many argue that these leaders and countries are not “truly” Islamic. But they certainly aren’t Christian or Jewish or Buddhist. They are countries and leaders shaped by Islam. Muslims need to consider what is it in Islam that brings this situation into existence and allows it to continue to exist? It is people claiming to follow Islam who have created this humanitarians crisis.

Note also that the Muslims fleeing the suffering are not in general seeking admission to Islamic countries. Nor do we see Islamic countries doing everything possible to welcome their fellow Muslims. Muslims are fleeing traditionally Muslim countries and trying to find their way to non-Islamic countries. Why? Again, Muslims need to ask themselves what is it in Islam that allows and causes this to happen? It may be true that some leaders and countries are distorting Islam, but what in Islam lends itself so readily to such distortion?

Even though Europe and most of the West are considered to be “post-Christian”, we see it is Christian morality which causes people to welcome refugees in. It is Christian morality which Muslim refugees are seeking. Even when Christians and “post-“Christians are conflicted about how to deal with these refugees, still it is Christian values which causes people to agonize over how to treat these refugees.

Christians cannot claim a perfectly pristine moral history when it comes to dealing with strangers and sojourners and Jews or Muslims. But the crisis the world faces now is born in Islamic civilization, even if it is a distortion of Islam.

I would say for my fellow Christians, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is not Christian morality. Neither is an attitude that we should kill others for wounding us. Or that we should kill seventy fold for everyone of us who dies at the hands of terrorists (this idea belongs to Lamech in Genesis 4, not to those following the Lord).

As Americans, we might remember the ideal we find enshrined on our own Statue of Liberty:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Fr. Ted's Blog

Fr. Ted Bobosh


mike smebak11/22/2015 12:01 am
If the information that is being spread by credible sources is true, the Majority of people demanding help are males 21 to 25. The Koran teaches they are not to even tell us the truth. It is quite evident the intent of all of this, that being to kill all Christians. It is foolishness to invite your sworn hater into your home.
Paul Slater11/21/2015 5:02 am
Muslim Countries burn Churches, kill priests won't allow Churches to be built and kill Christians and those who convert to Christianity. Muslim refugees are killing Muslims refugees who convert to Christianity all in Europe. Do not help destroy Christianity by believing you are helping you're fellow man, because as Christ said "Do not give your riches (Heart, Mind and Soul) to those who eventually turn around and tear you to pieces. Christianity is again under threat of annihilation if Christian countries allow the Muslim threat to grow westwards. That is the intention of Muslim Jihadies Kill half their fellow
Muslims leaving the other half terrorised and willing to risk all to spread their faith and terror to Western Christian Countries. Allowing Mosques to be built in Christian countries is a sin, insult and a Big Threat to the Christian Faith and its values
Paul Slater11/21/2015 4:57 am
Please note also that GOD ALMIGHTY punished the Jews several times for turning their backs on him leaving the temple in ruins and not praying to GOD. They were invaded and subjected to slavery by the Babylonians, Philistines, Persians, Romans and the Selucids. These Muslims are being killed by their own Muslim brethren. They have to and must convert to Christianity to live the values that CHRIST taught us to live. Instead they live in their own Muslim world in European cities, alienated and bringing up Jihadies who eventually cause terror and threats to Christian beliefs. Forgive but don't forget. If these Muslims won't convert to Christianity, then they need to be removed form Christian societies and sent back to their Muslim Countries. GOD Almighty is punishing Muslims for rejecting Christian values. They burn Churches, kill priests won't allow Churches to be built and kill Christians and those who convert to Christianity.
Anthony11/20/2015 8:50 pm
What a tragically ill-informed article. The refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq are fleeing as a direct result of illegal western created wars in these countries. These nations never asked the west to destroy their countries and install puppets who would simply obey and sell their souls and cheap oil to said westerners. Same with the Ukraine. Same with Georgia. The author asks why these refugees are fleeing to the west. Because the same hypocrites offer benefits and housing which they wouldn't obtain in other muslim countries. Ironically, the two countries who caused this whole mess - Britain and the USA are the ones who are not bearing the brunt and in fact doing next to nothing to ease the squeeze the rest of Europe (remember Cheney's jibe - ''Old Europe'' who opposed their wars) are suffering. And in Jordan there are approximately 2 million refugees. Estimated. So there are Muslim countries taking in these people.
Ben11/20/2015 4:05 am
Fr. Ted, don't you see who is really behind all this? It is not "radical Islam," for that is only a front for American and Zionist interests. The "current crisis" was NOT "born in Islamic civilization" it was born in Zionism.

Why is everyone so afraid to speak up against Israel and Zionism? Are you afraid of being labeled "anti-semitic"? Are you scared of the ADL? Are you truly ignorant to what is going on in the Middle East right now? Do you actually believe everything you read and see in the Western media?

Who is benefiting right now from the actions of groups like "al-Qaeda" and "ISIS"? Is it any Islamic nation at all? No, of course not. Can't you see that what happened in Iraq and Lebanon is now happening in Syria - and that no one benefits from this except for Israel?

Fr. Ted, it is irresponsible of you to write and publish articles like this, even on your personal blog, if you don't have a solid understanding of the issues at hand. Which you do not.
Harrison J Krenitsky11/19/2015 8:51 pm
Father Ted,

You are spot on and hit the mark!

We Christians need to understand that being a Christian is not an easy task, and too often we act like the lawyer in the Gospel.
Being a Christian requires that we be risk takers too, and that those risks, like any others risks we might take in life, come with unknown dangers associated with them. Christians are called to be entrepreneurs of Faith through the Truth we are called to bear. Mixing the political and Spiritual world makes bearing that Truth even more daunting. Because we view the world through clouded vision, seeing the resultant in God’s time is most difficult. Let us pray for God’s help in our decision making and the Faith to endure the results of those decisions in Peace and Love.

Elizabeth Riggs11/19/2015 6:37 pm
I agree with Fr. Ted to a point. I draw the line at committing suicide by admitting anymore Moslems into my country. Why? Because there is no way to determine if Islamists (jihadists) are among them. In fact, there is no way to determine if moslems are among Christian refugees. And there is no tenet in either Judaism or Christianity that requires a people or a nation to commit suicide by admitting into their nation, any people who hate them and wish to destroy them (witness all the attackes on the World Trade Center in the years before 9/11, the bombings in Boston, London, Paris and other locations in the world).

It is a sad dilemma. We must, through Christian charity, assist refugees. We must, in order to continue to be able to offer Christian charity, prevent Islamists from entering our "post-Christian" countries. And determining the difference among Islamists posing as either Moslem or Christian "refugees", "regular" Moslem refugees, Christian refugees and other refugees.

I await ideas from someone (or some people) wiser than I. And I continue to pray, daily, for all "sojourners" legitimately seeking refuge in the west.
Here you can leave your comment on the present article, not exceeding 4000 characters. All comments will be read by the editors of OrthoChristian.Com.
Enter through FaceBook
Your name:
Your e-mail:
Enter the digits, seen on picture:

Characters remaining: 4000

to our mailing list

* indicates required