Refugees in Macedonia close to the border with Greece
Read Matthew 2:13-23.
There is a humanitarian crisis in Europe. These words used in today's media could as easily have been said by Rev Douglas Lister, the army chaplain who insisted on a compassionate response to the plight of German refugees in the aftermath of the Second World War.
His determination to help led to the creation of Christian Reconstruction in Europe, which later became known as Christian Aid.
70 years on, the need to respond to the current refugee crisis in Europe is as great as it was then.
For five years, Christian Aid partners in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon have been working tirelessly to accommodate and support those seeking refuge from the trauma and devastation of the conflict in Syria. And now our ACT Alliance partners are working to support refugees arriving in Europe in Serbia, Hungary and Greece.
This refugee crisis does not take us by surprise; in 2007, on the 50th anniversary of Christian Aid Week, we foretold something of the human tide of forced migration that the world would face in the 21st century as a result of conflict, disasters, large-scale development and climate change.
According to the UNHCR there were 59.5 million forcibly displaced people across the world last year, and 51% of the 19.5 million recorded as refugees were under 18 years of age. Our Beirut friends project earlier this year served to highlight something of the humanity behind these startling statistics.
We walked the latest Munro of the 70 Munros challenge on Saturday 12 September, the day thousands gathered in cities across the UK and Europe to stand in solidarity with those seeking refuge. Our group walked, rather than stood, in solidarity - along a long mountain ridge in Kintail.
We walked mindful of those who have walked enormous distances across challenging terrain. Always safety conscious when in the mountains, we were mindful of those who hope they walk towards a place of safety, even if it is far from a place they can call home.
We walked with sturdy boots, backpacks loaded with warm layers and packed lunches. We walked conscious of the warm shower and clean sheets that awaited us in the guest house at our journey's end.
Our walk did not compare with their arduous journeys, but perhaps some might draw comfort and strength from the knowledge that they do not walk alone.
‘Jesus himself began life as an undocumented child refugee.'
This story of humanity seeking refuge extends much further back than Christian Aid's 70 years. The story of a displaced and exiled people threads through the Old Testament, and Jesus himself began life as an undocumented child refugee.
The account of Joseph, Mary and Jesus fleeing to Egypt at night, detailed in Matthew 2:13-15, followed by an account of the tragic slaughter of the innocent, demonstrates how necessary their fearful journey to safety was.
It also highlights the place of weeping and lament for those whose lives have tragically been lost, often without notice.
It is an account of a father who lives in fear of what might happen to his young family. A father who will do all he can to get them to a place of safety. It is a story echoed in the one that has initiated the outpouring of compassion across Europe.
As we reflect on these past and present accounts of seeking refuge, may we draw hope and courage from the God who was a refugee.
God of all, where are your children?
Let us see God's children, who are far from home,
adrift in an open, overcrowded boat,
with no compass, no crew, no safety.
God of all, why is there crying?
Let us hear the cries of refugees and respond with love
to those whose escape from danger
leads only to a journey into danger.
God of all, who is praying?
Let us pray for the young lives being lost,
for the families who are broken apart,
asking for comfort and for justice.
God of all, who is answering?
Let us see that You are in the boat,
or on the road,
alongside the members of your family.
May we, who bear your name,
answer with compassion for you.
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