Freedom, What Happened?

imagesA recent Freedom House report declares Israel is the only free country in the Middle East. Israel scored 80 out of 100 points on the Freedom House chart. Partly free countries are Turkey (38), Jordan (37) and Kuwait (36.) Countries deemed not free were Iraq (27), Iran (17), Saudi Arabia (10) and Syria (-1). By world standards Israel scored lower than most. North American and European nations were listed between 89 and 100.

Freedom House used a complex scoring system assessing political rights and civil liberties. Principles applied by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were observed.

According to the 2016 report 72 countries showed declining standards of freedom over a 10 year slide. Just 43 countries made gains. “The democracies of Europe and the United States struggled to cope with the Syrian civil war and other unresolved regional conflicts. In addition to compounding the misery and driving up the death toll of civilians in the affected territories, the fighting generated unprecedented numbers of refugees and incubated terrorist groups that inspired or organized attacks on targets abroad. In democratic countries, these stresses led to populist, often bigoted reactions as well as new security measures, both of which threaten the core values of an open society.” – the report observed.

Driving Force

The report concluded: “The number of countries designated as Free stands at 86, representing 44 percent of the world’s 195 polities and nearly 2.9 billion people – or 40 percent of the global population. The number of Free countries has decreased by three from the previous year.” (The three were Dominican Republic, Lesotho and Montenegro)

There are 2.6 billion people living in nations listed as Not Free. There are 1.8 billion people in Partly Free locations. Look at that…. 4. 4 billion people live in less than free societies! This is the driving force behind the refugee crisis causing pain and distress worldwide. The issue is critical and causing serious dilemma for world leaders and concerned Christians.

The Christian position is very clear. The Bible repeatedly lays out the appropriate divine direction – How would you like to be treated? That is how we should treat foreigners (Leviticus chapter 19, verses 33-34).

  • Give them practical aid -food and clothing (Leviticus 19 verses 9-19)
  • Love them. (Deuteronomy 10, verses 18-19)
  • Seek justice for them (Malachi 3 verse 5)
  • Invite them in (Matthew chapter 25, verses 25-36)
  • Show mercy (Luke 10 chapter 10, verses 29-37)

Relevant

unknownCBN last February ran an article ‘9 Thing the Bible says You should Do for Refugees.’ 7 Feb. 2017) A reader to Relevant magazine said: “Hate to see anyone have to go through this. I’d love to see the church rally together to do everything possible to help the refugees. That said, I absolutely do not think our government should. The guidelines in the Bible are for the church and individuals – not guidelines on how to run a country. The government is in place to defend and protect Americans, and I don’t think helping refugees accomplishes that in any way.”

Writer Sarah Quezada authored “The Church must stand up for Immigrants and Refugees” – published by Relevant February 6, 2017. She referred to the Good Samaritan.

There is no doubt what the mission of the church is called to be, but what is the role of government? Every government has an obligation to protect the national residents, the voters. Regarding immigration and open doors for refugees the attitude is intensifying. A recent survey by Chatham House highlights the public opinion. They note the mounting public anxiety over migrants from mainly Muslim regions.

“In our survey, carried out before President Trump’s executive order was announced, respondents were given the following statement: ‘All further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped’. They were then asked to what extent did they agree or disagree with this statement. Overall, across all 10 of the European countries an average of 55% agreed that all further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped, 25% neither agreed nor disagreed and 20% disagreed.” (www,chathamhouse.org – What Do Europeans Think About Muslim Immigration – Feb 7, 2017)

In November last year Helena Legido-Quigley, from the Centre on Global Health Security wrote: “Doctors working in Greek refugee camps report asylum seekers experiencing mental anguish and anxiety symptoms related to border closures and not knowing whether they will be relocated or granted asylum. And in camps at Calais, Munich, and across Greece, doctors report widespread anxiety symptoms and distress among all groups. A physical representation of this anxiety reported frequently is sudden collapse due to mental exhaustion.

“Many refugees also report not wanting to use emergency medical services, even when they need the care, for fear of missing an opportunity to cross a border. But refugees’ need for health services extends beyond mental and emergency health care to cover the whole gamut of routine health care.” (Chatham House – Europe Must Find Humane and Dignified Response – 30 November, 2016)

The vast number of refugees have legitimate need for love and care. It is the minority who take the crisis and use it for violent opportunities. We must have wisdom in processing the desire to help.

I recall being frustrated often as I travelled in and out of Israel. The officials asked many questions and refused to concede until every one was answered appropriately. Israel is famous for effective vetting procedures.

I also remember the joy we knew after we entered and met with our Jewish friends in Jerusalem. They blessed us with abundant hospitality and we shared in their celebrations. Friendships were established that remain to this day. There is a balance, and we must find it quickly.

A Flood of Refugees, The Mind of Christ.

imagesThe German publication Der Spiegel runs regular stories describing the escalating refugee crisis in what they call Fortress Europe. In a recent report they said, “Desperate scenes played out here, reminiscent of those witnessed in Hungary back in September.” They described, a group of young men who used a steal beam as a battering ram. “Men could be seen running and children screaming,’ they said.

These scenes are becoming more evident and Christians must be a radiant light in the darkness. The world is in crisis. Living by faith, as a Christian, will mean reaching the lost with the love of God, not in some wishy-washy way but with practical solutions.

As we ponder the facts, it is essential we know God is great. He promises we can do all things, through Him. There have been great champions of the faith and they stood up when the days and times were dark. We now have that opportunity. Read this carefully. Forty per cent of the world’s population will be homeless by 2030. UN Habitat estimate three billion people will need housing in less than fifteen years. 1.6 billion people in our world today live in inadequate shelter. More than 100 million people worldwide are homeless.

In 1985 the UN General Assembly declared the first Monday in October to be World Habitat Day. By UN Habitat calculations 96,150 new affordable housing units are needed every day to meet the need, that is, 4000 every hour. Forty percent means four in ten will have no place to call home in just a few years. I have grandchildren who will be in their teens in 2030.

boy-1226964__180Charles Dickens helped me embrace the situation. “Bleak, dark, and piercing cold, it was a night for the well-housed and fed to draw round the bright fire, and thank God they were at home; and for the homeless starving wretch to lay him down and die.” (Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist) It is a stark, challenging description.

 Australia

While the crisis in Europe may seem far removed from us, Homelessness Australia reports one in 200 people are homeless “on any given night.” According to their statistics, an estimated seventeen percent of homeless people in Australia, are under 12, eighteen percent are aged 25-34.

Of ‘people who sleep rough each night’ 67.6 percent are male, 32.4 percent female. One of the major causes of this distress is domestic violence. Our fellow man and woman, boy and girl, are in dire need of love, comfort and support.

The Salvation Army says ‘over 100,000 Australians will be homeless tonight.’ It is serious. “I think homelessness is an absolute tragedy. To know that you don’t belong anywhere, that you have no home to shelter in, and no one to support you. It is one of the most distressing experiences a person can have …The consequence is the quality of life for the whole community is diminished. People will do whatever it takes to survive, including turning to crime if they have to. ”

” As a community, we need to be responsive to people who are homeless, not just for moral and social reasons, but also for the sake of the stability of the entire community,” Major David Eldridge, Salvation Army said.

Love

images-2Reading through these statistics is overwhelming but the numbers represent people who need love and support. We are called to have the mind of Christ. Frankly I was overwhelmed by the details. I turned to a book ‘That Incredible Christian’ by A. W. Tozer: “The Spirit-filled, prayerful Christian actually possesses the mind of Christ, so that his reactions to the external world are the same as Christ’s. He thinks about people and things just as He does.” In the same chapter he wrote: “We must think of the surrounding world of people and things against the background of our thoughts of God.”

Joseph Reuben, singer-songwriter, on his blogsite said: “If it was not for Christian organizations like the Open Door Mission, the Salvation Army, and many others, the homeless would be getting a lot less help than they are. I appreciated every meal and every volunteer that made my life a bit more tolerable when I lived on the streets.

During that time God taught me a lot about myself. One important lesson I learned was that while I was spending a lot of my time complaining about how others were judging me for being homeless, I was judging them for not being homeless. Sometimes the hardest thing for us to do is to show grace to those who judge us.” (word-from-the-street.com)

As we assess the simple mathematics of the refugee and the homeless, surely we are challenged. How will our borders remain secure? How will our culture be affected by the surging tide of humanity seeking a safe-place? How many will seek our harm?

“Christian love draws no distinction between one enemy and another, except that the more bitter our enemy’s hatred, the greater his need of love. Be his enmity political or religious, he has nothing to expect from a follower of Jesus but unqualified love. In such love there is not inner discord between the private person and official capacity. In both we are disciples of Christ, or we are not Christians at all,” wrote World War II hero Dietrich Bonhoeffer. (The Cost of Discipleship)

God has not been caught unawares in this crisis. The Bible tells us Jesus Christ had no place to lay His head (Luke chapter 9, verse 58). He was a refugee. He relates to homelessness.

Billy Graham reminds us: “The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service. The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.”