If Jesus was born today, what sort of world would he find?
Twenty-two of us gathered in Chadlington last Wednesday for the last of our series of Advent Suppers, this time on the theme of ‘welcome’ – or perhaps, what it means to offer or receive a ‘well-coming’. The evening began with a short discussion, during which we considered what the defining characteristics of a welcoming country might be. Our answers included:
- acknowledging strangers in such a way as to allow communication, even if there are language differences
- showing interest by asking questions in a sensitive, non-aggressive, way
- smiling, and making eye contact
- showing respect and giving dignity
- practical help such as hospitality, and providing information and basic necessities
- being aware of cultural differences eg behaviour normal to us, that might inadvertently cause offence
The TED talk that followed, How to help refugees rebuild their world, was given by Melissa Fleming of the UN Refugee Agency. It is a strong presentation – and in charting the progress of particular refugees it illustrates well the power of the human interest story to inspire our compassion and empathy (two of our themes from earlier weeks). It is perhaps human nature to find it easier to respond to individual people or families, whereas the plight of anonymous thousands can leave us feeling helpless.
The talk, recorded in 2014, presented many surprising facts about the ongoing refugee crisis in the Middle East:
- 86% of those fleeing their homes find shelter in neighbouring countries (Lebanon, with a population of just 5 million has 1 million refugees),
- only 14% head for Europe and the West.
- Being a refugee is not a temporary condition – the average length of time is 17 years.
- 50% of refugees are children, for whom there is a scarcity of education beyond primary level. The lack of funding for secondary, let alone tertiary, education means that a whole generation is being wasted.
- The very people who need resourcing and equipping to rebuild their countries in years to come are being left vulnerable and without hope for the future.
There was plenty of food for thought here to stimulate our discussion during the meal that followed, after which we looked at a number of short bible quotations from both the Old and New Testaments linking the theme of God’s commandments to care for ‘the stranger’ and for each other. Far-ranging discussion in the groups included consideration of how ‘justice’ can be defined (whose justice is being enforced?); what our responsibilities to refugees might be (do they, for instance, include trying to bring wars to an end?); the effects of changes in society since biblical times with people nowadays more likely to be dislocated from families and places of origin, and the loss of inter-generational living. As at previous Advent suppers the evening ended with discussion on how to put our responses usefully into practical action.
The series of Advent Suppers has been both stimulating and an excellent opportunity for fellowship. Special thanks go to all involved in setting up the evenings, those who prepared the hall, cooked and served the very delicious meals and drinks, and washed up. A Lent series is already being planned!
ADVENT SUPPER – WEEK 4
16 December 2015
TED Talk – How to help refugees rebuild their world
For discussion before the TED Talk:
What are the defining characteristics of a welcoming country? (Have someone at your table jot down the characteristics you have identified).
Some questions to consider during our meal:-
Discuss your reactions to any of the points the speaker made, and consider the implication for our country, our church community and ourselves as individuals.
Here are some that you might like to consider.
- What is a refugee/What makes people become refugees?
- What choices do they have?
- How extensive is the refugee problem today and where is it concentrated?
- What responsibilities do we have towards refugees?
If you think we do
What can we do to help solve the problem?
God accepts all in Jesus
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations (Greek ethnos), But you have made it a robbers’ den.” (The word ethnos is the New Testament word for “gentiles.”) (Mark 11:17)
We Were All Baptized By One Spirit
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)
Invite the Stranger In
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.’ (Matthew 25:25-36)
Love Your Neighbour as Yourself
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)
Leave Food for the Poor and the Foreigner
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. (Leviticus 19:9-10)
If you come with us, we will share with you whatever good things the LORD gives us.” (Numbers 10:32)
God Loves the Foreigner Residing Among You
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)
The Sin of Sodom: They Did Not Help the Poor and Needy
Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. (Ezekiel 16:49)
Do Not Oppress a Foreigner
Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)
Do not despise an Edomite, for the Edomites are related to you. Do not despise an Egyptian, because you resided as foreigners in their country.(Deuteronomy 23:7)
Do Not Deprive Foreigners Among You of Justice
“So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3:5)
Questions to consider
- HOW DOES WELCOME RELATE TO THE FIRST TWO THEMES OF COMPASSION AND EMPATHY THAT WE DISCUSSED IN OUR ADVENT SERIES?