We as the United Church of Christ recently took a look at our mission statement, purpose statement, and vision. The results gave us, among other things, a vision that is short and to the point: United in Christ’s love, a just world for all. This bold proclamation requires us to be accountable for acting faithfully in a world that often falls short of Christ’s call to love and justice.
One of the largest challenges to that just world for all can be seen in the massive displacement of peoples happening right now. At this moment, the world is experiencing the largest uprooting of people in recorded human history (as reported by the United Nations here). More than 65 million people have been forcibly displaced from their communities in what some are calling a global refugee crisis. Millions of refugees and asylum seekers have fled their home country for reasons of war, drought, religious persecution, and more. Many more folks, however, are internally displaced peoples – i.e. folks who have left their community but are still in their own country.
Of those who are forced to leave their home countries, the majority do not end up in wealthy states. Instead, they end up in neighboring states. In the Syrian refugee crisis, for example, Jordan has taken in 600,000 refugees – this, in a country of less than 8 million people total. Germany, meanwhile, has also taken in 600,000 Syrian refugees, more than any other developed country. This has happened even despite Germany having more than 10 times as many people as Jordan and a GDP that is more than 96 times larger than Jordan’s (as noted here). Developing countries are bearing the largest brunt of caring for refugees, even as organizations that might help these countries with refugee support are chronically underfunded.
As a result of these realities, more and more refugees are making the long and often dangerous journey to the developed world. All this is happening as Europe retreats from liberal internationalism by increasingly closing its literal and figurative borders. Nationalist movements are gaining traction from Turkey to Hungary to France and beyond. And this movement is not isolated to Europe. From the Philippines to Venezuela to the United States, recent political upheaval has raised serious questions about whether or not humanity should continue to embrace liberal internationalism as the way for nation-states (and their people) to relate to one another.
In the midst of this global uncertainty, the UCC continues its commitment to liberally ministering to refugees, asylum seekers, and displaced persons of all kinds (click here for an in-depth look). In local churches, that commitment takes many forms. In New Hampshire, Community Church of Durham is encouraging its members to run, bike, walk, and wheel in races to raise funds for Syrian refugees. In Chicago, two of our churches (St. Paul’s UCC and Epiphany UCC) remained diligent as they went through a variety of unexpected hurdles (as seen here) to welcome refugees to the United States. From Maryland to Iowa and beyond, local churches in the UCC are stepping up to minister to refugees at what may well be the most uprooted moment in human history.
At the highest levels of the United Church of Christ, our leadership has also spoken out about the realities of being church amid this refugee crisis. Rev. Jim Moos, executive minister of the UCC’s Wider Church Ministries, has spoken out about the issue of refugees entering the United States (as reported here). “The fearmongering directed at refugees is baseless. They are not a threat to our national security,” said Rev. Moos. “Since 1980 when the United States instituted stringent and systematic vetting procedures for accepting them into our country, not a single American life has been lost due to terrorist attacks carried out by resettled refugees. The refugees we welcome are the victims of violence, not its perpetrators.”
“As the United Church of Christ, we will continue to accompany refugees and to find ways to continue to be part of the narrative of hope that a faith in our God of love makes real,” said the Rev. Mary Schaller Blaufuss, the Global Sharing of Resources Team Leader facilitating UCC refugee ministries. “Local congregations and individuals are going out of their way to welcome and advocate on behalf of refugees. This extravagant welcoming is faith in action.”
What are you, your pastor, and your congregation doing to be church amid this crisis? Please share how you are supporting refugees in the comments below.