Seeing ourselves in faces of refugees

Published 7:00 am Saturday, September 26, 2015

The world’s population, as we may generically call ourselves, is currently experiencing the greatest migration of peoples since World War II. Back in that day, it was the resettling of millions who were displaced in that global six year war, which devastated most of Europe.

Today we see vast numbers, millions, of displaced, desperate hordes evacuating their homelands. Some are escaping the similar dictatorial regimes of historical evils. Some are escaping crushing poverty and corruption. Many of them are ill-prepared and ready to sacrifice themselves, too often with their lives, in the effort.

Our popular sentiment has an active propensity to identify these most needy in the most simple terms. “Migrant” seems to be the most benign, as it softens the reality. Whether we hear about them coming from the southern border of our Country, or from some far-off location, we believe they have the propensity to re-migrate back home where ever, and if, that may be.

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Perhaps the most difficult, is the label, “Refugee,” for it conveys an alarming need for a solution to mass chaos and a potential for permanence. We become faced with the portent of long term charity and support for those unwashed seeking their refuge with us. We are also faced with the too often realized fact that they are not like us.

This ‘not like us,’ extends to the full panoply of our differences.

For some, it may be their religious backgrounds, or political beliefs. For others it may be their social mores and habits. It may be the color of their skin, or physical traits. With each influx of these refugees to our shores, we soon have found them in identifiable enclaves, many within urban areas. This, much to the un-trusting noxious pleasure of some, thinking, ‘Well, at least we do not have to mingle with them.’ It is so easy to attempt to analyze the motivation of our world’s refugees, in the most generic terms. We, as is in our nature, may hold there is some galactic scheme to denigrate our moral, social and economic plans, now seemingly working so well…or the new scheme will make them worse.

We, as Christians, often fall for the bait. In our fears, we erect walls of vigilant rationales, to put off the realities of this, our world, and then complain there is nothing we can do about its conditions. How convenient and how unnecessary for we all may, and are, called to do something about it, no matter how small.

When Jesus, the Christ, was asked by the scheming Pharisees in the Temple, “What are the most important of the Ten Commandments?” He replied, “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and Great Commandment. The second is like unto it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

This oft quoted Scripture does not denote a particular race, or a culture, or a religion, for if it did, we may speculate only the Jews, Gentiles and Arabs would have been in the mix. Instead, there are no limits, as the words are said for all humankind, as we acknowledge we are all set in God’s image, as His creation. We are clearly given the spiritual and philosophical directive to consider everyone in our charity, hearts, actions and devotions. Let us acknowledge Jesus’ ready willingness to commiserate with human refuse, along with the physically and spiritually unwashed at every turn of His ministry,

We cannot corrupt the incorruptible, but only ourselves. Should a sense of the futility of life be overwhelming, then we are not with God, or seeking His truth about ourselves and our dark world. We can be most assured the refugees of today, and any day, are seeking Godly strength and truths and, it is only by the grace of God we are not they.


Fr. Jonathan J. Filkins