A Spirituality Shaped by Refugees
Spirituality is about how that inner fire we all have takes shape. Or we might say it’s about seeing and living our lives in the context of that ‘something’ bigger and deeper, letting it ‘speak into’ our life and shape it. In religious terms spirituality is sometimes beautifully described as ‘responding to the touch of God’. That touch of God, if we are attentive to it, enflames us and sets our hearts on fire and as we let it direct our course we ourselves are taken on a journey into deep and lasting intimacy with God. That touch of God is also the voice of our conscience disturbing us and challenging us. Our spirituality is given shape in the very stuff of life – our big and small everyday concerns and endeavours – and not apart from them.
This week is Refugee Week. This was initiated in Australia in 1986 and is now a worldwide observance. Today there are about 65 million people living as refugees in our world, having been forced to flee their homes as a result of fear, persecution and violence. There are many ways of responding to these people and to this mass migration, the endless streams of anguished and fearful people. There are political perspectives and economic rationalisation. There are well-thought-out arguments and emotive arguments which go various ways. But how might the plight of millions of people seeking refuge in our world lead us into a spirituality that is everything that our Christian tradition speaks of.
Let’s begin with the word. Scripture has much to say about refugees. We find many texts making it very clear that we are to care for refugees, the ‘strangers and foreigners’ in our midst as they are referred to. “Do not mistreat foreigners who are living in your land … love them as you love yourselves,” is the Law we find in the Book of Leviticus, and similar counsel is given elsewhere. In the Book of Deuteronomy, we are told to give the foreigners food and clothing (Deuteronomy 10:18-19) and the prophet Zechariah tells us to see “that justice is done, you must show kindness and mercy to one another. Do not oppress foreigners who live among you.” (Zechariah 7:9). In the Book of Numbers, we find these words: “I am the Lord and I consider all people the same, whether they are Israelites or foreigners.” (Numbers 15:16). Through these texts we are invited into a range of responses from providing basic needs to showing kindness, mercy and love and acting justly. We learn too that all of us are inherently the same. Our humanity is the great leveller! Jesus added something more to these teachings when he said that whatever we do to anyone we do to him. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” he said (Matthew 25).
Ms Kerry McCullough
Spirituality and Liturgy Coordinator