Updated: Jan 3, 2022
“No child goes to their parents and says, ‘Mom and Dad, when I grow up I want to be a refugee.’ Never.”
-Saul Ebema, DMin
Senior Pastor of Lombard Bible Church
Former Refugee and Child Soldier
It was recorded that 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide last year. These displacements were the result of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations. Currently, there are 25.9 million refugees in the world which is one of the highest numbers ever seen – and this is just refugees. There are also 41.3 million internally displaced people; and 3.5 million asylum seekers.
We hear of these numbers all the time: news anchors recite them and photo- journalists write them underneath their photos. Numbers are just numbers at the end of the day, however.
Why should they mean anything to us? Why should digits on a screen pull at our heartstrings at all?
But these numbers are people – human beings, men, women, and so many children.
To put these numbers into perspective, I want to compare them to populations of major international cities.
70.8 million people is roughly equivalent to nearly two times the population of Tokyo, Japan.
25.9 million refugees is as many people as there are in Delhi, India.
41.3 million internally displaced people is double the population of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
And 3.5 million asylum seekers could be seen as everyone in the city of Detroit, Michigan.
Leviticus 19:33-34 says, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land. Do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, as you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
There are many passages in the Bible that reference the idea of a stranger in a new place – sometimes it’s God who has told them to go to this new place and sometimes it is a matter of safety and life or death and the individual had no choice but to uproot and start anew somewhere else.
Although the circumstances may differ for those seen as “foreigners” in the Bible, there is no difference in the way we are called to treat them. Matthew 25:35 touches upon the idea that the mark of a true Christian is the extension of hospitality to any and all strangers.
Why should we stray from anything less than loving others both in word and in action while treating them with dignity?
Any of us, at one time in our lives or another, will be a stranger. A stranger to a new town, new city, or new country. Even if the displacement isn’t permanent, we still feel the stress of being out of place. We should strive to help those who live in this stress every day of their lives – the displaced, the asylum seeking, and the refugees are just as deserving as any to receive genuine love and hospitality.