Clearly Christians who desire to
respond with compassion and
wisdom need an anchor to avoid
this seasick heaving to-and-fro.
Let’s consider first, who are these
recent newcomers, and what will
happen to them?
These unexpected journeys into
Canada are a response, in part, to
negative politics in the U.S. concerning refugees and migrants that
have arisen during the course of
Trump’s presidency. These people-on-the-move long for refugee protection so they can stop running
and build a new life.
After arriving in Canada, asylum
seekers make a claim for refugee
status. Canada arguably has one of
the most rigorous and fair refugee
determination systems in the world,
administered by the Immigration
and Refugee Board of Canada.
When an asylum seeker makes a
claim, it’s taken seriously and a
decision is rendered by the Refugee
Board. A positive decision means
they get Convention Refugee
status, allowing them to live safely
in Canada while applying for
permanent residence. Last year, 63
per cent of asylum seekers received
protection through our inland
refugee determination system.
The best-known biblical passage
regarding the stranger in Scripture
is probably Deuteronomy 10:17–18:
“The Lord executes justice for the
fatherless and the widow, and loves
the stranger, giving them food and
clothing. Love the stranger, there-
fore, for you were strangers in the
land of Egypt.”
Notice how the word “love” is
used here regarding strangers. Just a
few verses previous is an affirmation
of God’s love for God’s people, an-
cient Israel (Deuteronomy 10: 15):
“Yet the Lord set His heart in love
on your fathers and chose their off-
spring after them, you above all
peoples, as you are this day.”
There is a deliberate association
here between God’s love for ancient
Israel, His love for the stranger and
Israel’s love for the stranger.
The kind of love God has for His
people is the same as He has for the
stranger. In turn, God’s people were
to offer the stranger that same love.
God loves displaced people and
has a particular concern and care
for vulnerable people. We could say
God is on the stranger’s side.
Loving, compassionate Christians
can still have valid concerns that
deserve careful consideration
about accepting refugees.
Some of us worry, first, about
helping asylum seekers because we
think of them as illegal.
In fact, under international and
Canadian law, people seeking refugee protection may cross an international boundary. As soon as
someone is part of the refugee
claim process in Canada, they are
part of a legal system.
So, actually, there is no such
thing as an illegal refugee claimant.
Second, some of us wonder if
refugees are safe for the community.
Understandably, terrorism can
make some people nervous about
outsiders. However, the groups who
organize terrorist attacks are the
very people refugees are fleeing.
Asylum seekers come into Canada for their own safety, not to make
Canada unsafe. They are thoroughly screened for identity and security
by Canadian enforcement agencies
before they are released.
Third, we may worry about Canada being swamped.
In fact, asylum seekers are not
overwhelming Canada. Last year
23,894 asylum seekers entered
Canada, a small dribble compared
to the 800,000 people Germany
welcomed. Or consider Lebanon, a
country one-third the size of Vancouver Island with a population of
4. 5 million (the same as the population of all of B.C.). Lebanon hosts
around 1.5 million refugees.
LOVE FOR STRANGERS
As we continue to work through our
concerns, we also should consider
how study upon study has demonstrated the economic benefits
refugees bring to a country, especially when given the chance to
settle, find employment and build a
life. A swift, appropriate and warm
welcome accelerates their capacity
to integrate, engage and give back.
In Canada, as in every country,
welcoming newcomers may stir
feelings of both compassion and fear
– sometimes even in the same person. We should not ignore these
feelings, but neither should we act
on them impulsively without first
having charitable public discussions.
As Christians coming to these
discussions, we bring our knowledge of the love of God in Christ
and our knowledge of God’s love for
the stranger. God’s love has guided
the Canadian Church in supporting
refugees for decades. God’s love is
an anchor that grounds us, even as
society heaves to-and-fro. /FT
Loren Balisky is the founder and executive
director of Kinbrace Refugee Housing and
Support, Vancouver. Mark Glanville pastors at
Grandview Church (the church that birthed
Kinbrace). He is also professor of Old Testament at
Missional Training Center, Phoenix, Ariz.
SEEKERS IN THIS
COUN TR Y ARE FAI TH
BASED – FRANKLY,
MOST ARE CHRIS TIAN.
THE Y ARE ALL SMALL,
BIGHEAR TED AND
IF YOU WAN T TO
IN SUPPOR TING
REFUGEES, HERE ARE
SOME AGENCIES TO
S TART WI TH:
BRI TISH COLUMBIA
Journey Home Community Association,
EN TERED CANADA
God loves displaced people
and has a particular concern
and care for vulnerable
people. We could say God is
on the stranger’s side.