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Hallo again to all.

A white lilyOur thoughts today are divided. In church this morning, we celebrated in the easy joy of Eastertide, as we walk with the disciples during the appearances of our risen Lord. For them, doubtless equally joyful and terrifying, for us mostly joyous with liturgical familiarity. But as we read the world news, our thoughts were pulled toward Syria and the plight of her people. In a safe building, still sporting Easter flowers and the faint aroma of incense from the feast of feasts, it is easy to declare that death did not have the final word. It is not so easy for those facing it day after day in Syria.

The countries of the Levant are no strangers to devastating conflict. We see this winding through the books of the Hebrew scriptures, with Egypt, Assyria and Babylon all vying for power in the Mediterranean. The Israelites find themselves time and again caught between these great powers, powers using conflict—sometimes even civil conflict—to carry out their own agendas. The people in between suffer.

The Jewish tradition echoes the pain of a culture trampled on by its neighbours and exiled from its home. Deuteronomy, which took its form in the context of refugees returning from the Babylonian Captivity, spells this out: 'You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in Egypt.' The prophets and Jesus himself take up this concern for the marginalized and the oppressed. Hebrews reminds us: 'Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.' The New Testament is in some ways a continuous expansion of just who our neighbour actually is.

The people of Syria today find themselves in a position not so different from the people of ancient Israel. Laying aside stated aims and the posturing of international politics for a moment, the reality on the ground for the average Syrian is this: their country is being riven by conflict that now involves the Western powers and Russia vying in some macabre replay of the Cold War. They face danger from these powers and from their own government, whether in the form of a 'smart' bomb, chemical attack, or the deprivation of the necessities of life. Doubtless Israel and Judah felt something not dissimilar as their divided country was picked apart for spoils by nations larger and more powerful than they.

Christians, we hope, feel the injunctions to shelter the refugee and the stranger in the case of Syrians just as strongly as any of Christ's commandments to love and care for our fellow humans. Yet, as we look at policies throughout the United States and Europe on Syrian refugees, they do not reflect these principles. In the US this year, only eleven Syrian refugees have been resettled. Though the UK has taken several thousand, it is still few compared to the number of displaced persons and their estimated 'fair share.' Germany's open arms to those fleeing the crisis in 2014-2015 have closed in the face of the overwhelming numbers and a growing anti-immigrant backlash—though they have still responded with a generosity that shames the US especially, but also the UK and France.*

It is not enough, and perhaps our resources simply are not enough to handle this humanitarian crisis, but the thread of welcome for the stranger in both Testaments does not afford us that as an excuse. We must do better.

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so
move every human heart, that barriers which divide us may
crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our
divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

See you next week.

Our Signatures


All of us at Anglicans Online

15 April 2018

* See for example this editorial from Spiegel Online. But more broadly on refugee numbers accepted, Wikipedia has an excellent summation.
† 'Prayers for the Social Order', Book of Common Prayer (New York: 1979), 823.

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