Last week, French authorities began clearing an area of Calais called the “Jungle.” After enduring war and poverty, millions of people fled the Middle East, Asia and Africa. About 7,000 men, women, and children built a shanty town near the port of Calais, France.
At the heart of this story is the question: where is the church? If churches are the embodiment of God’s kingdom, should they speak to humanitarian crises? Fear drives people to isolate themselves from one another. Politicians call for tougher borders. Some use frightening euphemisms like “extreme vetting.” Yet, all humanity are strangers in a strange land.
The local people did not want the migrants. The French authorities did not want them. The United Kingdom refuses to accept them. And, now French authorities have dismantled the so-called “Jungle.” Yet, everyone is a migrant. Exodus 23:9 reminds people, “Do not oppress a foreigner; you know the heart of the foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” Perhaps, we do not consider civic matters in light of theology.
Karl Barth writes about the church and civil community as concentric circles. The church is the inner circle, with Christ at the center. Society surrounds the church. According to Barth, “The church should be the place where a word reverberates right into the world.” Responses to the migrant crisis should pour out of the church. Do they? Do responses pour out?
Instead, many churches have a different response. Rather than thinking about creative solutions, some people are glad to have an ocean separating them from the migrants. Questions about whether the U.S. will accept 2,000 or 10,000 refugees fall along party lines. Some Americans are less concerned with the European migrant crisis than they are with keeping Latin Americans out. For Christians, this ideology is a far cry from Luke’s Jesus. In Luke 4:18, he quotes Isaiah 61:1, “The Lord anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor … set the captives free.” Keeping people out is not good news, nor does it free the captives.
Where will the people from the “Jungle” go? Most of the people are from Afghanistan, Sudan, and Eritrea. Are they supposed to go back? They have already risked their lives to escape war and poverty. Before the harrowing Mediterranean crossing, many survived the Sahara Desert. How are they supposed to go back?
Most of the migrants from the “Jungle” will go to one of 300 shelters and migrant centers across France. The resettlement will take about three days. Then what? And, why is the church not reverberating with cries for the poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed? So far, the U.K. will accept 143 children, but what about their families?
Why should anyone care? The migrants are human beings. They fled their homes and endured a horrible journey. They felt like they had no choice. Yet, fear is erosive. Faith fades when facing fear. Fear drives people to make bad decisions and ignore their convictions.
Christians profess faith in God’s love for all people. “For God so love the world …” begins John 3:16. Currently, there are over 65 million displaced people in the world. In a world with so much dislocation, Christians have an opportunity to follow Christ and proclaim good news to the poor and freedom for the captives. Where is God’s church now?