Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Jesus, Politics and Me - Immigration.

Since 2005, an extra 1 million people have come to live in the UK. Some believe that this boosts our economy; whilst others feel this puts greater pressure on employment, housing & public services. As followers of Jesus, we want a biblically informed view of immigration.

The bible is full of immigrants who love God and their journeying is an integral part of His plan for their lives (Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Jesus & the migrating apostles). Jesus was the Immigrant Par Excellence, the unique sojourner from heaven. Scripture also portrays Him as an international, political refugee - Jesus the Asian, was taken to the African continent, when his life was in danger.

There are also many bible themes relevant to immigration:

  • Christians are aliens & strangers (Heb. 11:13). This should form the basis for our attitudes and responses towards fellow immigrants.
  • Our material possessions do not really belong to us. As recipients of God’s graciousness and generosity, we need to guard against selfishness and possessiveness.
  • The cause of the foreigner. As non-citizens, immigrants can be rendered powerless and vulnerable to exploitation. Christians should recall our roots and identify with their plight (Ex. 23:9).

We need to think biblically and clearly about immigration as we consider what is going in the UK today:

  • EU immigration - None of the three main political parties is talking about revoking this right - this is the world in which we live & it isn’t going to change anytime soon. The majority of the 1million legal immigrants are from the EU.
  • Refugees – unlike economic migrants, refugees leave their home because of a well-founded fear of being persecuted. It’s important to remember that the poorest countries look after most of the worlds refugees, not the UK.
  • Asylum Seekers -In the 1950’s, the UK signed up to the newly drafted UN charter which dictated people seeking asylum are assessed on ‘merit’ not on ‘quota’. In 2008 figures show that there were 25,600 applications for asylum in the UK.
  • Illegal immigrants – according to a recent report, it is estimated that there are 1.1million illegal immigrants living in the UK, but by definition this is hard to verify. These are made up of people who have been smuggled in; stay beyond their visa, Asylum seekers whose cases fail but who stay on in the UK; Children of the above.

These are real issues, that bring real pressure, and real anger. We must identify with the family waiting for a council house only to see an immigrant family with more children being offered a home first.

Christians and churches should campaign for wise Justice for the immigrant. But the first step for many of us, is trying to understand our own attitudes and motives when it comes to immigration:

  • To what extent are our attitudes towards immigration shaped by fear or racism?
  • To what extent are we attempting to protect the cultural roots of Great Britain from corruption by “foreign” cultures?
  • Are we saying that other cultures only detract from our culture?
  • Does our ‘cultural identity’ take precedence over our ‘Christian identity’?
  • What is the theological basis for acting as though the UK were our property?
  • Are we being overly possessive of our lifestyle or standard of living?
  • Are we more concerned with the pursuit of affluence than we are in meeting the basic human needs of all human beings?

We must avoid developing a “We’d be alright if it wasn’t for Johnny Foreigner” mentality whilst acknowledging the very real pressure & complexity that immigration brings. As Christ followers, we must hold our nerve and proclaim the great themes of “loving our neighbours” and “upholding the cause of the alien amongst us”.

Ultimately, immigration is not an abstract political issue; it is about Jesus and families and hopes and dreams and justice for our fellow ‘aliens & strangers’.

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