June 19, 2021 is designated as Refugee Sabbath in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. June 20 is the United Nations World Refugee Day. According to UNHCR in 2019 there were 79.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. Ca. 40% of them are children, who often are exploited, abused, or victims of sex trafficking and violence. This makes the situation of millions of refugees and displaced people the greatest humanitarian crisis we face since World War II.
To show compassion and mercy is a divine mandate that is rooted in God’s great love for us. Having experience this love “compels us” (2Cor 5:14 NKJV) to become active and to engage ourselves to improve the plight of those who are stuck in an adverse situation. Love cannot remain indifferent. The desire to show compassion to all human beings is irrespective of their geographic origin or ethnic identity. And it is firmly grounded in the biblical teaching of creation. We are all created in the image of God. Therefore, all refugees and displaced people, regardless of their legal status, possess inherent and inviolable human dignity and deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and kindness. The right of residence does not change this premise. This fundamental insight into the dignity of all human beings finds its secular legal expression in human rights. As Seventh-day Adventists we honor the inalienable worth of every human being because of our common origin in God and therefore we respect human rights that reflect this biblical teaching.
God’s love does not stop at national or tribal borders. God repeatedly reminds us in the Bible to be gracious and merciful to strangers in our midst and to reach out to them, particularly to those who are often most vulnerable among them, which often are children. God is compassionate especially to those in need, regardless of the color of their skin, ethnicity, gender, nationality, religion, financial position, or social status. As His children we should treat others the same way and should emulate His loving and kind example.
This compassionate and loving attitude starts with our thoughts and the language we use to express them. Unfortunately, much of the language about refugees and displaced people has become rather heartless, giving license to discrimination and racism, fostering an atmosphere of fear. Violent and aggressive language easily leads to the dehumanization of specific groups of people. Therefore, we deliberately reject all violent and aggressive language with its derogatory and discriminatory rhetoric that depersonalizes, demoralizes, and demonizes people and often is coupled with a denial of the dignity and value each human being has in God’s sight. Rather than erecting walls between us we want to build bridges that connect us so that hope can be shared.
This compassion is further extended in tangible ways in our practical help for those in need. We want to seek every opportunity to be a healing and helping hand in reaching out to those who are affected by war, persecution, violence, famine, and other catastrophic events. We want to be agents of hope and find ways to be a blessing to those in need. Interestingly, many refugees and displaced people come from countries where the free proclamation of the gospel is difficult or even prohibited. In God’s providence these people are now brought near and into our sphere of influence, presenting unique opportunities to reach out to those in need and to show Christlike compassion. Our love can trigger in them a desire to learn more about the caring faith they see in us. Our practical help will give our testimony credibility when we share the love of God that compels us to do good and to share the good news with them. In this we follow the example of Jesus who during his earthly ministry, found manifold practical ways to heal and to restore, to feed the hungry and to preach the coming kingdom of God. Let’s follow the example of Jesus and live out our faith in an authentic and loving manner by reaching out to those who have come to the land where we live.
Where do you see opportunities to relate to refugees and displaced people in helpful ways?
These thoughts are taken from an important recent statement of the Biblical Research Institute Ethics Committee (BRIEC) on the Humanitarian Crisis of Refugees, Migrants, and Displaced People. It is entitled: The Love of God Compels us. The statement is published in the April 2021 issue of the BRI Newsletter Reflections.
 “Figures at a Glance,” UNHCR, June 18, 2020, https://www.unhcr. org/figures-at-a-glance.html (accessed April 18, 2021). These were the latest numbers available at the time this document was written.