World Refugee Day 2018: ‘Welcoming the Stranger’ Meets ‘Zero Tolerance’

hile the United States continues its “zero tolerance” crackdown on asylum seekers crossing the border, churches across the country and around the world are rallying to support millions displaced by the global refugee crisis.

This week, the Trump administration pulled protections for undocumented migrants fleeing domestic violence and gang violence, a population that includes Central American Christians who come to the US because they fear for their lives as unrest worsens in places like El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Just as the government implements another new policy—the Justice Department’s recent decision to put children into government custody or foster care away from their detained parents—Christians are crying to God: Abba Father, we lift to you the precious refugee children who have become separated from their parents and family. Father God, please keep them safe and protect them from any kind of abuse. Help the children to be quickly reunited with their parents and family.

That prayer comes from the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA)’s World Refugee Sunday resources, to be used in participating churches this weekend and next weekend, timed around the United Nations’ annual World Refugee Day on June 20.

With over 65 million people forcibly displaced by conflict, violence, and persecution around the globe, WEA and partnering ministries encourage Christians to raise awareness, raise prayers, and themselves welcome the stranger.

In the US, evangelicals rallying for immigration reform—who have long called on the government to prioritize family unity and protections for persecuted Christians—have likewise become more vocal in their advocacy.

Among those directly impacted by the new US policies are Christians leaving Latin American countries where organized crime outlets target them for their moral stances against violence and greed, and in some cases, the risk of violence has kept believers from feeling safe enough to gather for worship. According to one account, a Brazilian mother who fled gang threats in Brazil arrived in El Paso last week, only to have her seven-year-old taken from her, asking, “Are they going to kill you?”

During this week’s Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting, the country’s largest Protestant denomination adopted a resolution reiterating its commitment to refugee ministry and welcoming migrants.

It stated in part, “We continue to ‘encourage Southern Baptist churches and families to welcome and adopt refugees into their churches and homes as a means to demonstrate to the nations that our God longs for every tribe, tongue, and nation to be welcomed at his throne,’” quoting text from a 2016 resolution on the issue.

“I think God is bringing the nations, particularly as immigrants and refugees, to the US to give us an opportunity not just to go to them with the gospel, but so that they could come to us and experience the gospel,” said Micah Fries, who attended the Dallas gathering as pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “My fear is, as followers of Jesus, we’re missing this opportunity. We’re allowing political conversations, political parties, to derail a Great Commission opportunity.”

Critics saw a contrast between adopting resolutions on Tuesday that affirmed the need for immigration reform (including tightening border security, offering immigrants a pathway to legal status, and ensuring families are kept together whenever possible) and on Wednesday welcoming Vice President Mike Pence, a top figure in the administration that has enacted the more restrictive policy shifts.

For Christians, the issue of family unity for immigrants shows signs of transcending partisan lines. Franklin Graham, an evangelical adviser to President Trump, recently spoke against family separation on CBN News, encouraging legislative reform to remedy the new guidelines for migrants at the border.

“I think it’s disgraceful, it’s terrible to see families ripped apart, and I don’t support that one bit,” he said. “I blame the politicians for the last 20, 30 years that have allowed this to escalate to the point where it is today. We are a country of laws, and laws need to be obeyed… but the situation we have today is the result of our lawmakers over generations, and I’m hopeful that soon something could be done to fix it.”

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Source: Christianity Today