ADVERTISING
 
Friday, June 22   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



Thomas Albinson
 

A Christian Response to the Humanitarian Crisis in the Mediterranean

The majority of migrants arriving to Europe's coasts are seeking refuge from terrorists, violence, war and persecution. They are the threatened ones.

FEATURES AUTHOR Thomas Albinson NEW YORK 23 APRIL 2015 13:53 h GMT+1
Port augusta migrants Photo: Getty Images.

Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in;



hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.



Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.



He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in.



Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love…



Psalm 107:4-8



BACKGROUND



The capsizing of a boat carrying an estimated 850 desperate men, women and children from Libya to the shores of Southern Europe has once again put the dangerous human migration route across the Mediterranean into the publicspotlight. Only 28 lives were rescued.1



Assuming that this devastating death toll is confirmed, a total of 1,600 lives will have been lost in the waters between 1 January and 20 April, 2015. During this same period, more than 36,000 people reached the shores of Southern Europe. In 2014, 219,000 migrants survived the voyage. 3,500 migrants died at sea.2



The United Nations, governments, humanitarian agencies and faith leaders are struggling to come up with a satisfactory response to this unprecedented crisis in the region.



 



PERSPECTIVE – THE GLOBAL BACKDROP



The Mediterranean is one of the great crossroads of the Refugee Highway – the well-worn routes forcibly displaced people travel in search of safety, peace and a normal life. The map below documents such routes to and across the Sea.3



 





Some voices frame the Mediterranean crisis as a threat to the security and economy of Europe. Such a perspective identifies the flow of migrants as a problem to be stopped. They fear that rescuing migrants at sea will only serve to embolden others to attempt the crossing and further escalate the crisis. Perhaps they believe that the people boarding the boats in Libya have other options from which to choose. But do they?



 



Why people board the boats



People board the boats because they do not believe they have any other viable option. There are presently over 51 million forcibly displaced people on the planet to whom the world offers only three possible “solutions”:



- Solution 1: Return to your country of origin. But refugee producing conflicts are increasingly protracted. Many go on for decades. 21 nations are presently engaged in such violence with no end in sight.4



- Solution 2: Integrate into your country of refuge. The trouble is that 86% of the world’s uprooted people are hosted by developing countries.5 These countries cannot possibly absorb and integrate all of the people seeking refuge within their borders.



- Solution 3: Be resettled to another country. In any given year, less than 1% of the global refugee population is resettled.



It is clear that these “solutions” fall far short of offering any real hope to the majority of uprooted people in the world. The lack of effective solutions has led to the average time of forced displacement to now be 17 years.6



That is why hundreds of thousands of forcibly displaced people come up with a forth solution – risk everything to try and reach a stable country in which they can find refuge and rebuild their lives. It is this dangerous hope that fills boats headed to Europe with human cargo.



 



Who is on the boats?



At risk of oversimplification, we can imagine people pay smuggler’s fees and board overcrowded boats headed to Europe’s shores for 1 or more of the following 3 reasons.



1. Many of those found on the boats are refugees – people forced to flee their countries. The majority of the 850 who were on the capsized boat last weekend were refugees from Eritrea (fleeing persecution), Syria (fleeing war) and Somalia (fleeing a failed state).7



2. Many sub-Saharan Africans migrated to Libya looking for work. But violence between political factions has erupted once again and ISIS is gaining a foothold in the country, where they have begun executing Christians from sub-Saharan Africa. It is no wonder that many of these migrants now feel compelled to flee Libya. They are faced with the option of a dangerous desert crossing back south, or a dangerous sea crossing to Europe. Many choose the sea in hope that Europeans will understand their predicament and give them refuge.



3. There are likely others who make their way to the Mediterranean with the aim of reaching Europe in order to improve their lives. They were not uprooted by war or persecution, but rather by economic despair. Unable to imagine a better future in their impoverished homeland, they risk everything to try and reach Europe. Often their families wait back home hoping to receive remittances to improve their lives.



 



HOW SHOULD CHRISTIANS SEE THIS MIGRATION DRAMA IN THE MEDITERRANEAN?



As Christians, we need to avoid falling prey to those trying to manipulate public opinion by inciting fear. When we picture the women, children and men coming across the sea, we must not envision them as potential terrorists and criminals. The truth is that the majority are seeking refuge from terrorists, violence, war and persecution. They are the threatened ones.



 



Putting a face on the numbers



Alice8 is originally from Eritrea. Like many others, she fled her homeland because of political and religious persecution. She received asylum (i.e. refugee status) after arriving in Europe by sea. While in Malta, Alice told the story of her Mediterranean crossing to Paul Sydnor, Europe Regional Director of International Association for Refugees (IAFR).



“I was on a boat in the Mediterranean with about 30 other people, both Christians and Muslims. After three days at sea, our motor failed. We were adrift. Some of those on the boat knew that I could sing and pray. So whenever the seas grew rough and we grew afraid, they held me up so that I could sing and pray for everyone to hear.



By God’s grace, a rescue boat found us. I was standing at the front of our boat when it began to sink. I got stuck as the boat filled with water. I was pulled under. Everything went black. I knew that I would die. I called out Jesus’ name from under the water. I looked and saw a light. I swam to it as fast as I could. That is how I was saved. I know that it was God’s strong arm that saved me.”



Thank God that Alice was rescued at sea and that Europe formally recognized her as a bonafide refugee. Human life was saved. Human dignity was preserved. Human rights were honoured.



 



Divine Mandate



As Christians, we need to prayerfully seek God’s perspective concerning this crisis. God’s Word is filled with perspective that can help us.



Christians carry a divine mandate to love the alien9 and to welcome the stranger10. Our response to human desperation and migration is not to be fear, but love. The default posture of our hearts is to be open, not closed.



Jesus laid out some of the marks that identify those who are of his kingdom in Matthew 25:35?36.



“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,



I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,



I was a stranger and you invited me in,



I needed clothes and you clothed me,



I was sick and you looked after me,



I was in prison and you came to visit me.”



As uncomfortable as it may make us today, his words make for a good description of the people trying to reach Europe’s shores.



Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, has asked church leaders to play an important role in the global refugee crisis – that of “creating humanitarian space in the hearts and minds” of people for refugees.11 He made this plea after hearing Christian leaders unanimously confirm our divine mandate to love and welcome the stranger.12 The United Nations is hoping that we will prove ourselves to be true to our calling and play an important part in assisting with the present crisis.



 



Biblical perspective on forced migration



“From the divine banishment of Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:23,24) to the final book of the Bible penned by John while in exile on the island of Patmos, stories of forced displacement run throughout Scripture.



Sometimes the causes are simple and other times complex. Some people were forcibly displaced as a result of their own choices and actions (Adam and Eve, Cain, Moses, etc.), while others were driven from their homes in response to climate change/natural disaster (Noah, Lot), conflict (Hagar, Joseph), famine (Jacob, Abraham, Naomi), war/exile (the nation of Israel, Esther, Nehemiah, Daniel) or persecution (David, Jesus, Philip, Aquila and Priscilla, Peter, the early church).”13



Because the refugee narrative flows from cover to cover through the Bible, we can see that God is often powerfully at work in and through the lives of forcibly displaced people. It is this truth that can help us not become overwhelmed and paralyzed in the face of this present crisis. We need to assume that God is at work along the Refugee Highway. And we need to make ourselves available to God, should he call us to join him.



For a list of many refugees in the Bible, see the related resource available.



 



WHAT IS ERUOPE’S RESPONSIBILITY REGARDING THE DEATH OF SO MANY PEOPLE?



The Mediterranean has become a giant reflecting pool, exposing the unrelenting evil and despair that is loose in our world. Trace the steps of those on the boats and you will find your way back to wars, failed states, persecution, oppression and hopelessness.



Europe has no choice but to respond to this crisis. There are no easy choices to be made. Nevertheless, we will be responsible for the choices we make.



Perhaps the following European and International voices offer a helpful way forward that is both necessary and realistic.



 



Value human life above other agendas



During a recent radio interview, Hernan del Valle (Doctors Without Borders), pointed out that “there is only hope if what we’re calling for is first and foremost politicians in Europe need to put the lives of human beings above other considerations at the moment.



 



Embrace solutions that include integration



During the same interview, Mark Micallef (Times of Malta), warned that we need to avoid believing that there is a quick fix to a crisis like this – “…there isn’t one. This is a very, very, complex problem that we are going to be facing for the next couple of decades, possibly. The first thing we need to be doing is to stop knee?jerk reactions… This is a very complex problem that needs multidimensional solutions managing the integration of these people in our economies and in our societies.”14



 



Create real alternatives for refugees – and increase burden sharing



The United Nations has welcomed the initial EU response, but challenges the EU to expand measures to include “…developing a robust search-and-rescue operation which places an emphasis on saving thousands of lives; making a firm commitment to receive a significant number of refugees for resettlement in the EU; providing legal alternatives, such as enhanced family reunification, private sponsorship schemes, and work and study visas, so that people in need of international protection do not need to resort to such dangerous voyages; providing support for those countries receiving the most arrivals (Italy and Greece), and; greater intra-EU responsibility sharing to avoid the current situation where a few countries are receiving most asylum-seekers, mainly Germany and Sweden.”15



 



WHAT CAN LOCAL CHURCHES DO?



Pray



The issues raised in this article offer many points for prayer concerning this crisis. We must pray concerning the root causes of forced migration. We must pray for those who have been forcibly displaced. We must pray for the governments and societies on the front line that have no choice but to respond to the boats in their waters and the people arriving on their shores. We must pray for the church in Europe – that our divine mandate to love the alien and welcome the stranger would demonstrate the love of God in the midst of this humanitarian crisis.



Perhaps God will use Scriptures like the following to help us as we pray.



o Psalm 107:1?8



o Psalm 142



o Psalm 146



o Psalm 5:11



o Matthew 25:34-40



o Exodus 2:15-22



o Acts 8:1-8



o Acts 18:1-4



o 1 Samuel 23:9-16



o Ruth 1:22 and 2:11-13



 



Get Informed



Many Christians are poorly informed concerning the refugee crisis. Local churches can play an important role in helping their faith communities better understand the realities and challenges related to the crisis. World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) has created a series of user-friendly resources and links to help.



See more information.



 



Network together – The Refugee Highway Partnership



No single government or institution has all that is needed to respond to this crisis. As Christians, we need to work together and encourage one another. The Europe Region of the Refugee Highway Partnership is a network that brings together a wide variety of Christians with a burden to serve refugees. The annual European Roundtable of the RHP is an important opportunity to network together.



Learn more.



 



Raise awareness – Demonstrate solidarity



World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) established World Refugee Sunday as a way for Christians worldwide to demonstrate our common concern for the welfare and protection of forcibly displaced people. The Refugee Highway Partnership (WEA Global Partner) offers many church?friendly resources to help observe this important day of the year.



You can find the resources here



 



Hospitality and Integration



As has been mentioned already, the solution to this long-term crisis is going to include creating place within our societies for the wave of people arriving on our shores. Such place is created by welcoming the stranger and helping them integrate into our cities and neighborhoods. What community is better situated for this purpose than a local church?



Governments and social agencies have much needed expertise to provide helpful services to these new arrivals. But they do not offer community or relationship. That is to be a hallmark and strength of a local church.



More church-friendly resources.



 



Thomas Albinson is ambassador for Refugees, Displaced and Stateless People World Evangelical Alliance (WEA).



 



 



-----------------------------------



 



1 “UNHCR welcomes EU Mediterranean plans, but says more needs to be done”, 22 April 2015. Source:



http://www.unhcr.org/553623109.html



2 “UNHCR calls for urgent action as hundreds feared lost in Mediterranean boat sinking”, 20 April 2015. Source:



http://www.unhcr.org/5534dd539.html



3 Map from BBC, “Mapping Mediterranean Migration”, 15 September 2014. Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world?europe?



24521614



4 CBC News: http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/three?reasons?the?number?of?refugees?is?as?high?as?it?is?today?1.2651327



5 UNHCR Global Report, 2013, page 6



6 CBC News, “Three Reasons the Number of Refugees is as High as it is Today”, 23 May 2014. Source: CBC News:



http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/three?reasons?the?number?of?refugees?is?as?high?as?it?is?today?1.2651327



7 “UNHCR welcomes EU Mediterranean plans, but says more needs to be done”, 22 April 2015. Source:



http://www.unhcr.org/553623109.html



8 Her name is changed to protect her identity. Alice was ultimately resettled from Malta to Australia.



9 Leviticus 19:34



10 Matthew 25:35?36



11 “Closing remarks as delivered”, High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges, Theme: Faith and Protection (12?13



December 2012), Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.



12 At the request of UNHCR, faith leaders (including representatives from WEA) later drafted “Welcoming the Stranger:



Affirmations for Faith Leaders”. Download the document at: http://www.unhcr.org/cgibin/



texis/vtx/home/opendocPDFViewer.html?docid=51b6de419&query=welcome%20the%20stranger.



13 “5 Reasons Followers of Christ Seek the Protection and Welfare of Refugees”, by Thomas Albinson. Complete article available



at www.iafr.org/toolbox/articles?handouts.



14 The Takeaway with John Hackenberry, 20 April 2015, “Mediterranean Becomes Mass Grave For Hundreds of Refugees”.



Source: http://www.thetakeaway.org/story/hundreds?feared?dead?in?mediterranean?shipwreck/



15 “UNHCR welcomes EU Mediterranean plans, but says more needs to be done”, 22 April 2015. Source:



http://www.unhcr.org/553623109.html


 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - A Christian Response to the Humanitarian Crisis in the Mediterranean
 
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.