Pause For Thought: Refugees

As Canadians get ready to go to the polls, many issues clamor for our attention

By Rev. Brian Krushel

Trinity Shared Ministry

As Canadians get ready to go to the polls, many issues clamor for our attention.

What is the big issue for you in this election? It could be just about anything – the economy, the environment, health care, senior care, housing, tax cuts, minimum wage, trade deals … the list is lengthy.

One issue that emerged early on and seems to have stuck around, although it has abated recently, is immigration and refugees. It was an issue that came to the world’s attention due in large part to the humanitarian crisis occurring in Syria. Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing that country to escape the horrors of a protracted war.

The extent of the human cost of this mass exodus was made most poignant when the photo of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi face down on a Turkish beach went viral. That single photo caught the world’s attention and prompted our elected officials to articulate their immigration and refugee policy.

Fast forward a few weeks and there is public discussion of women wearing the niqab during Canadian citizenship ceremonies.

It is a separate issue from the Syrian refugee crisis, but both reveal something about how we treat those who are foreigners and newcomers to our country.

In the seventh chapter of St. Mark’s gospel, Jesus has an encounter with a Syrian woman (verses 24-30). She approaches Jesus and asks him to heal her daughter. At first, Jesus refuses and dismisses her, citing cultural differences and his preference to not have dealings with foreigners. But the woman persists, answers him back, and causes Jesus to re-think his initial response. In the end, Jesus changes his mind and heals her daughter.

Jesus’ assumptions are challenged, his perspective is stretched, and he is changed and transformed by his encounter with this Syrian woman. So is her daughter who receives the healing she seeks. Challenged assumptions lead to changed minds and the healing we need to be whole.

We, too, are challenged by our encounters with people of different races, creeds and cultures.

Living in a global community like ours where cultures mix readily and easily, it is so very important that we regularly examine our ethnic assumptions and cultural biases so that we uphold the rights and dignity of all people.

The stranger and foreigner among us is not our enemy, they are our opportunity to examine our assumptions, test our suppositions, learn and grow in our understanding and acceptance of people who may be different from us but who have the same hopes, dreams, ambitions, and aspirations as us.

It is interesting that such matters are before us at a time when our political future is being shaped. It has forced us and our elected officials to articulate a vision of what kind of a society we want.

Hopefully, it is one where we have the humility to admit that we don’t know everything and are open to learning, growing, and changing, one that seeks healing and wholeness across countries and cultures, one that is built on principles of respect, dignity, and justice of all. Those are some pretty big issues.

 

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