The archetypal refugees for Christians are, of course, the Holy Family: “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child to destroy him.” So says the angel to Joseph. Like most refugees today, they fled to a neighbouring country.
One third of all refugees come from Syria and they flee next door to Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Turkey hosts more refugees than anyone else in the world (2.8million) and Lebanon (hosting 1 million) comes after Pakistan (1.6 million). Jordan is in the top ten. In proportion to its population, the UK, one of the top six wealthiest economies, comes fourteenth in Europe for asylum applications.
But refugees are “out there” for most of us – unless you live on the south coast, I guess. If you know someone, the perspective tends to change. You realise that they are people like us. People with hopes and fears, needing safety, and willing to come to a new country and contribute. (Check who developed the anti Covid vaccine in Germany.)
They are not “swarms” and “invasions”. Though we do label some groups as such. Most of those crossing the Channel are people fleeing war-torn or oppressive countries, where no safe and formal routes, such as refugee visas, exist for making an asylum claim. They are labelled “illegal”. In contrast, more than 200,000 visas have been issued to those escaping the war in Ukraine. We make choices.
“I am part and parcel of the whole and cannot find God apart from the rest of humanity.” Mahatma Gandhi.