ADVERTISING
 
Monday, June 25   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
ADVERTISING
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 

POLL
Migration
Do Christians in your country have a Bible-based understanding of how migrants should be treated?




SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



Samuel Escobar
 

Syrian refugees in Europe

In the second century there were commercial links between Gaul, nowadays France, and Syria. Among Syrian merchants, there were believers in Christ who contributed to spreading the Gospel in the European continent.

FEATURES AUTHOR Samuel Escobar TRANSLATOR Israel Planagumà 02 OCTOBER 2015 12:09 h GMT+1
refugees, Syria, Lesbos, 2015 Syrian refugees arriving to the Mediterranean island of Lesbos. / AFP

The constant hammering in the media, showing hordes of refugees fleeing to Europe, moves us and shakes our conscience.



Those of us living in Europe wonder about how European Christians are going to respond to this crisis. Many of them, in places like Hungary or Sweden, have already started to respond out of their Christian conscience and with whatever means they have within their reach. We also have to admit that Christians don't have a monopoly on these displays of compassion and solidarity.



Something is already under way, but there is much more left to do.



Scenes of Syrians crossing towards Croatia brought back memories of a historical event for me, along with a theological reflection. The eminent Christian missions historian Kenneth Scott Latourette reminds us, in the first of seven volumes of his History, that in the 2nd century there were commercial links between Gaul, nowadays France, and Syria. Among Syrian merchants, there were believers in Christ who contributed to spreading the Gospel in that region.[1]  



Also, the earliest signs of Christianity in India are also ascribed to Syrian merchants and was rediscovered in the 16th century when the Portuguese arrived there.[2]



Miroslav Volf is a distinguished Evangelical theologian from Croatia, who currently is teaching at the Faculty of Theology in Yale University. In a previous article, I commented on the book which has made him famous, Exclusion and Embrace.[3] It is a deep reflection on the theme of how humans build their identity, and how in the process of doing that, they distance themselves from other, from “the others”.



I had the privilege of knowing Volf in 1991. At that time he was teaching at the Osijek Bible Institute, a beautiful town in what then was Yugoslavia. A few months later I saw on TV, to my great surprise, how this town had exploded, destroyed by the tragedy of the division of that country among Croats, Serbs and Bosnians. A bloody, fratricidal war followed, in which the World saw unbelievable extremes of genocide and destruction. Racial hatred and exclusion led these Eastern Europeans to commit the same atrocities that we saw happening again between ethnic groups in Rwanda, in East Africa.



In his book Exclusion and Embrace, Volf proposes a theological exploration of the issues of one's identity, the identity of “the others”, and reconciliation. He claims that the understanding of the Christian message, and the mission of the Church today, have to take these issues into account, because around these issues we will find some of the most serious challenges to faith in the coming decades. As human beings, we belong to families, peoples, races, nations, realities from which our identities get shaped. Also, as human beings, we become aware of other humans belonging to other families, peoples, races and nations. There is an initial moment of exclusion in which we discover, affirm, and enjoy everything that is exclusive to us, and that makes us different from “the others”.



If and when this process of exclusion intensifies and becomes exaggerated, we could reach the point of understanding as the only possible way of live distancing ourselves from the rest, by affirming our own identity, excluding others. However, social realities like migrations or the formation of nations impose on us having to live with others who are different. If an excluding attitude prevails, it ends up making coexistence impossible, and reveals itself in forms of exclusion like racial segregation in the United States, or apartheid in South Africa.



In these systems, the powers that be organize society in a way that excludes those who are different. Exclusion results in contempt, reducing other to an inferior life, curtailing their opportunities of advance, multiplying privileges for “our kind” at the cost of sacrifices and disadvantages for “the others”. It is appalling to watch how xenophobic attitudes are growing among some political parties, with raising influence in countries like France, Germany, Italy or Greece.



If we examine carefully the New Testament, we can find in the very center of the Gospel a criticism of exclusion, and an invitation to abandon this attitude. In Volf's theology, Christ's cross is central, inviting us to reconsider our attitudes, to replace exclusion with a fraternal embrace, receiving others in light of a new identity which now stems from our relationship with Christ.



When Syrian refugees, or refugees of any other nationality, start living in European cities, we will be facing the challenge of putting exclusion aside and offering an embrace instead. In Spain, this has happened to a certain point, with the arrival of Latin Americans and Eastern Europeans who have found in many churches a fraternal embrace. Certainly, we will increasingly find among today's refugees people who know Christ, and who will be used to live out and announce the message of Christ, like those Syrian merchants from the 2nd or from the 9th century who went to the south of France or to India spreading the Gospel.



Samuel Escobar is an international speaker, author and theologian. 



[1] Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of the Expansion of Christianity, Volume 1, The First Five Centuries Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1970; p. 98.



[2]  Kenneth Scott Latourette, Volume 2, The Thousand Years of Uncertainty, p. 281.



[3]  Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1996.


 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - Syrian refugees in Europe
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation

Are Christians called to make a difference in environmental care? What has creation care to do with "loving our neighbours"? An interview with the Global Advocacy and Influencing Director of Tearfund.

 
Kathy Bryan: Online sex trafficking in the USA Kathy Bryan: Online sex trafficking in the USA

“Prostitution is nobody’s dream,  it’s a very traumatic lifestyle”, says Kathy Bryan, director of the Elevate Academy. She mentors former victims.

 
Christians in politics? Christians in politics?

What is the role of Christians serving in politics? An interview with Auke Minnema, the new General Director of the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM).

 
Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies

RZIM International Director Michael Ramsden responds to questions about the secularisation of Europe, the role of Christians in public leadership and the new ‘culture of victimism’.

 
Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe

The economist summarises the manifesto “Confederal Europe: Strong Nations, Strong Union” and explains why personal relationships should be at the centre of our economy, education and democracy. 

 
Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues

The World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General participated in the Italian Evangelical Alliance assembly (Rome, 8-9 April). In this interview with Evangelical Focus, Bp Tendero talks about the need to listen to local churches and to face challenges like the refugee crisis and climate change. 

 
Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum

Pritchard explains the vision of ELF, comments on the 2015 event in Poland and reflects on what it means to have an "evangelical identity".

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
Analysing current issues in the light of the Bible Analysing current issues in the light of the Bible

At the 2018 Apologetics Forum in Comarruga (Spain), Michael Ramsden, Pablo Martinez, Ruth Valerio and José de Segovia analysed how society and the Bible approach the issues of personal identity, integrity, sexuality, pop culture, and environmental care.

 
European “Bridges to Inclusion” gathering 2018, in Riga European “Bridges to Inclusion” gathering 2018, in Riga

The network of Christian ministries working for the inclusion of people with disabilities, celebrated its tenth continental meeting in Latvia with the participation of 12 countries.

 

 
Coexistence in the church - a model for society Coexistence in the church - a model for society

“Gospel, identity and coexistence” were the themes of the General Assembly of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance. Two days in Palma de Mallorca to reflect about the role of evangelical churches in society.

 
'Ungi kulimi changana' 'Ungi kulimi changana'

Educator and journalist Jordi Torrents shares images of the Sekeleka social centre in Mozambique. About 50 children live there, many with some kind of disability. All photos were taken with permission.

 
The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve

For the first time, the President of Portugal attended a worship service in an evangelical church. It was in Sintra, on Christmas Eve.

 
Stamps to commemorate the Reformation Stamps to commemorate the Reformation

Poland, Lithuania, Namibia and Brazil are some of the countries that have issued special stamps on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses.

 
VIDEO Video
 
Trailer: “The Peace Between” Trailer: “The Peace Between”

A film about the experience of refugees in Europe. Churches, small groups and individuals are encouraged to use it during Refugee Week: 17-24 June.

 
How can churches better support singles? How can churches better support singles?

Tina Tschage, on some areas in which other Christians can encourage singles.

 
The Church of Scotland debates historic doctrines The Church of Scotland debates historic doctrines

The Kirk has begun official procedures to investigate the status and the role of the Westminster Confession of Faith within its denomination.

 
Be safe on social media Be safe on social media

A video about the way traffickers target teenage girls online, produced by anti-slavery gorup Abolishion.

 
In Mission In Mission

A 360º lyric video about how all followers of Jesus Christ are called to serve God. Duo in Spanish (Alex Sampedro) and Portuguese (Marcos Martins).

 
Heart Heart

A short animation film by Swiss cartoonist Alain Auderset tells the message of the Bible in four minutes.

 
Philip Yancey interview Philip Yancey interview

An 8-minute interview with Philip Yancey on the role of Christians in a secularised society. Recorded in Madrid, September 2016.

 
An interview with Prof. John Lennox An interview with Prof. John Lennox

New atheism, the definition of "faith", Christianity in Europe, the role of the Bible in mission, and the need to listen more. An exclusive interview recorded at "Forum Apologética" (Tarragona, Spain) in May 2016.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.