There were 26 million refugees in 2017, (as distinguished from Internally Displaced People and Asylum Seekers.) “This represents an increase of 500,000 over the past year. Refugees are people who were forced to flee their country of origin in search of safety. To receive refugee protection, they have to prove that they could not find refuge within their homeland and that the authorities in their country either could not or would not protect them.” *Source
Be silent for a moment and consider:
What if the authorities in your city, province/state, or country could not or would not protect you? You may already feel that way or know people who do. What does this do to your sense of security?
People do not leave their homes or their countries for no reason. Imagine feeling the urgent need to pack up your family and whatever you can carry and leave everything else behind, with little to no expectation of ever returning home. Nobody does that unless they genuinely believe that fleeing their country is better than the alternative, that the uncertainty and danger of being a refugee in a strange land is somehow safer than staying where you are. This is often the result of a breakdown of government authority, though it can also come from authorities allowing persecution or engaging in state-sponsored terrorism.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph experienced this.
When King Herod hears that a new “King of the Jews” has been born, he knows what to do. Herod never shied away from enacting violence – even against his own family – to secure his position. And he knew the kind of trouble new-born “Kings” could cause. So he gathers intel on where and when the baby was to be born, attempts to make the Magi his unwitting spies, and when that fails pursues a policy of targeted infanticide to wipe out the threat.
Herod would not protect the holy family, and they could not stay where they were. So they became refugees, upon divine direction: “Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’” (Matt 2:13-15)
The idea that the Messiah flees the Promised Land to Egypt for safety is dripping with meaning. God wanted his liberated people to be different, to protect one another, to live righteously, and to be a blessing to the whole world. But they became like every other nation. And to top it off, here is King Herod doing exactly what Pharaoh had done generations before – ordering the death of infants to protect himself.
If you have a hard time imagining why anyone would flee their country to become a refugee, remember this story, and understand that it is still being played out around the world again and again.
Read: Matthew 2:1-18
Prayer: Thank the Lord that, for the sake of humanity, he did not spare his son the experience of the flight to Egypt. God knows the deepest fears of his children, because he has lived them in the flesh. Pray for the authorities that cannot protect their people, that they would be favoured with the necessary resources, assistance and competencies. Pray also for the authorities that will not protect their people, that their hearts or their positions would be changed.
Our vision is to help people survive and recover from forced displacement. We do this together with the church, both globally, and locally in Canada.