November 24, 2015
I've received a few emails this week wondering if there are particular actions that can be taken related to the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis as well as the recent actions taken and statements made about these refugees in reaction to recent acts of terrorism. This email has three things; a resource to consider; a request to all of you; and a few comments from me.
- Our denomination has been working with ecumenical colleagues to support those who are refugees from war in Syria (as well as many other refugee situations). Our national leaders have also shared statements about recent events. These resources can be found, easily, on at www.UCC.org. There are currently a few resources found on the homepage but you can find more by typing "refugee" and/or "Syria" in to the search box.
- The work we are doing is far from the only work being done and, collectively, we know more of what's happening than I do. Please take a moment to share some of the opportunities you're aware of as a "reply all" to this email. I would suggest that you limit your comments to what actions are being done within our conference, ecumenically or Interreligiously. As a side note, do know that I have reached out to the Executive Director for the local chapter of the Council on American-Relations to offer both words of support and willingness to stand with them if there are any hate crimes in our area.
- Finally, my own comments. As we move in to Advent, we must never forget that part of our story includes a Refugee Christ whose family had to flee acts of terror perpetuated by Herod. In Matthew 25, Jesus also reminds us that what we do to those who are oppressed in this world we do to him.
When we turn away the refugee, we are turning away the Christ who is fleeing war, terror and danger. Although a few may disagree, there is simply not an adequate Christian justification for such a decision or supporting such a widely applied, general policy.
It is also striking that the reaction to the acts of terror in Paris have had such a greater impact on the international conversation than similar or worse acts of terror in other parts of the world; particularly Africa. Yes, the actions in Paris were terrible but no less terrible than actions that have taken place in Nigeria, Kenya, Mali or many other countries in the world. Why is it that African lives seem to matter less than European ones?
Racism infects all parts of our lives including our empathy and compassion. For white people in particular, awareness of this is not - in and of itself - the reality we must only face once. It is a chronic, whole life condition that we must remain vigilant about. It is as much an ever present spiritual condition as any genetic mental health or physical condition. It is not something we can cure or heal once it manifests but something we need to recognize as part of our daily reality and become as aware of it and be responsible for it in the same way as anyone with any chronic condition does. Our collective and individual denial of this harms ourselves in ways we do not always recognize and harms people of color in ways that mean that each day is a day when when the reality of physical, spiritual, economic, psychological death or harm must be a consideration. It forces others to adapt to our false perception of reality.
Our emphasis on European rooted countries as innocent victims of violence and countries with a majority of People of Color as, at best, partially guilty victims is one more sign of the systematized dis-ease that we need to address both within ourselves as well as within in the systems we have built to rationalize, support and promote this way of being.
There is more to say but that's probably enough for today. Blessings and peace as we move into Advent; a time when welcome the Refugee Christ in to our hearts and recommit to serve Christ daily as we encounter Christ in all those who are vulnerable, oppressed and impoverished.