In this week’s Corrymeela prayers, we read how Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus escaped at night, for fear of their lives, and fled to a foreign country.
This text, unique to Matthew’s gospel, shows the holy family by night, seeking refuge.
The holy family sought asylum. Exile, expulsion and asylum are intrinsic to so many of the sacred texts of our world. Intrinsic too is the required response: hospitality.
It is with shock and grief that we see reports of people seeking refuge from devastating crises. We see the self-sacrificing determination of those who believe that their loved ones deserve better, who know that their people need safety and who have abandoned their homes to cross oceans, deserts and armed borders.
This is a moral issue. Seeking refuge is not a privilege but an intrinsic and moral right. As a community of faith, we believe that the only response is one of hospitality. We ask our leaders to lead; and to respond with integrity to this dehumanising catastrophe in ways that will cost us. To open the doors of our homes and villages and cities to new people involves change - and we welcome the possibility of this change.
We are called to act - and actions in response to this crisis are neither surplus nor generous, but a moral necessity. We speak with confidence that the welcoming of people who seek refuge in our countries and cities will be to the enhancement of our civic and religious society.
In our own societal fractures, we welcome the contribution of the cooks, the carers, the old, the young, the
athletes, the academics, the artists, the cleaners, the employed and unemployed who are seeking refuge among us. Christians and Muslims, people of faith and people of none - we welcome and honour them in the name of humanity and in the name of the God whose life and love sustains us all.
We are compelled to admit that while we can offer what we have, we do not know how best to help. Crises like this only occur on a global stage where many actors are benefitting from the actions that systematically dehumanise the most vulnerable.
Individuals and industry; consumers and commissioners; laypeople and leaders — we are all involved and are all called to act. We, as Corrymeela, join with the thousands of voices committed to and calling for immediate and moral response.
Inadequate as they are, we list our own commitments here:
• We will give sacrificially to those funds that best serve the immediate needs and systematic intervention into such dehumanising circumstances.
• As the Corrymeela Community, we welcome and will respond to direct requests and initiatives from our governments to support people who are seeking refuge.
• In light of these devastating circumstances the doctrinal arguments that divide so many of us Christians are shown to be vapid. In our discussions of faith, we commit ourselves to public acts of remembrance, prayer and giving that benefit those who seek safety and shelter not in doctrine, but in fact.