“You Shall Also Love the Stranger”

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In December of 2000, the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution to inaugurate World Refugee Day, to be observed annually on the twentieth of June. Protestant bodies as diverse as the World Evangelical Alliance and the World Council of Churches (which include Orthodox bodies as well) urge member congregations to commemorate World Refugee Sunday each year on the Sunday before or after June 20th. The Roman Catholic Church observes the World Day of Migrants and Refugees in January.

According to 60 Minutes, hundreds of houses of worship in the United States haveΒ volunteered to shelter illegal immigrants and their families who face deportation. In fact, since Donald Trump was elected in November, the number of churches in the United States expressing willingness to offer sanctuary has doubled to more than 800, according to the Rev. Noel Anderson, national grassroots coordinator at Church World Service. Illegal immigrants can be arrested in places of worship, but ICE has a long-time policy of avoiding religious spaces, schools and hospitals.

Katy Long of The Guardian news organization tells the story of a Christian couple who own and operate Refugee Coffee, a company that hires newly arrived refugees. Long also writes about Clarkston, a small town in Georgia, that has received over 40,000 refugees over the past 25 years. They come to Clarkston from every corner of the globe. This year there are more Congolese than Syrians. Past waves of refugee resettlement have brought Bhutanese, Eritreans, Ethiopians, Somalis, Sudanese, Liberians, Vietnamese. All have landed in an otherwise unremarkable city in the Deep South, population 13,500.

TIME magazine called Clarkston the most diverse square mile in America with almost 32% of the city being foreign born. Their story is recounted in the best selling book, Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman’s Quest to Make a Difference.

Good for a Clarkston, Georgia, a shining example to us in our increasingly xenophobic nation! As people of God, we have our mandate: to love and respect those who come to seek refuge among us.

I share with you a litany for worship written by Ken Sehested, β€œYou Shall Also Love the Stranger.”

Gracious One, who jealously guards the lives of those at every edge, we lift our heavy hearts to your Mercy.

We live in a fretful land, anxious over the ebbing away of privilege, fearful that strangers are stealing our birthright.

Aliens breaching our borders.

Refugees threatening our security . . .

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β€œCursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.”
(Deuteronomy 27:19)
All the people shall say, β€œAmen!”

β€œYou shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy10:19).
All the people shall say, β€œAmen!”

β€œThere shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you” (Exodus 12:49).
All the people shall say, β€œAmen!”

β€œWhen an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien” (Leviticus 19:33).
All the people shall say, β€œAmen!”

“Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against . . . those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts”Β Β (Malachi 3:5).
All the people shall say, β€œAmen!”

[Speaking to those destined for paradise, Jesus explained:] β€œFor I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” (Matthew 25:35)
All the people shall say, β€œAmen!”

For we, who were formerly illegal aliens and undocumented workers in Creation’s midst, β€œare no longer strangers and aliens, but you with the saints and also members of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19)

Amen, Amen and Amen!

Β©ken sehested @ prayerandpolitiks.org

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