June 20, 2018
June 20 is designated as World Refugee Day. Over the years the significance of this day has grown. For Presbyterians, it is a day to connect or reconnect with our own refugee heritage through our faith ancestry. As Scripture tells us, “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:19). Throughout our church history we can find those who have fled persecution for their faith and those who have responded to the call to welcome the stranger: Abraham and Sarah; Moses, Miriam, Aaron and the people of Israel; Ruth; Jesus, Joseph and Mary; the apostle John.
World Refugee Day is also a day to acknowledge the individuals and the entire communities of refugees who have been uprooted from their homes, the majority living in precarious situations.
This World Refugee Day my heart goes out to refugee families separated by flight and by government policies. When I was growing up, mid-June meant the end of the school year, family vacations and summer camp. As a teenager, I looked forward to the time away, knowing that I would soon be going home, excited to share all my new adventures with my parents. How different for refugee families who are forced to separate as a means to survival. Like Jochebed laying Moses in a basket in the Nile River, parents in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras are forced to send their children away in hopes of protecting them from certain danger. When civil war came to a village in the Democratic Republic of Congo, family members were scattered, each forced to find their own path to safety. All of these families carry with them the hope of being reunited with their loved ones. Indeed, it is this hope that keeps them going.
And so, it is extremely troubling to learn that U.S. government policies are separating children from their parents. Some parents are being separated from their children at our borders in the name of “deterrence.” Resettled refugees wait to be reunified with children or a parent still overseas. Preserving family unity and assisting family reunification have been hallmarks of both U. S. policy and the international convention on refugees for decades. As Christians we understand that family is a gift from God.
In today’s lectionary reading we find Jesus’ words: “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me” (Matt. 18:4). World Refugee Day is also a time to remember our Presbyterian brothers and sisters who reach out in welcome to the refugee children and families and those who advocate on their behalf. In so doing, they proclaim the good news and bring comfort to those in need.
For more information about the refugee ministry of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, go to www.pcusa.org/pda/refugee.
Susan Krehbiel, Associate for Refugees and Asylum, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance
Today’s Focus: World Refugee Day
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Dear God, today we pray for all who are uprooted and separated from the people and places they love due to violence, terror, desolation or natural disaster. May they feel your guiding hand and loving embrace even as they wait for the opportunity to return to their homeland or search for a new place to rebuild their lives. Open our hearts that we may see your face in their faces, remembering your call to welcome the stranger.