What I Learned About Immigrants (Part 02)

This post is the second in a series on things that I learned in Brazil.

Last time we looked at the love of God for the stranger among us, this idea of God’s love for the stranger was made even more real to me when we were there because, at the time, in the small town we were in (more on the town in a later post), there was a lot of discussion going on about Haitians – you know, people from Haiti – and I wondered why, people were talking about the Haitians who had moved in to the town, and how there was no place for them, and they needed to move on etc. It was in the local news and stuff like that. So I looked into it, and it seems that, after the earthquake in 2010, a lot of the UN peacekeepers were from Brazil, they formed a natural connection with the people of Haiti, and so from then until now about 165,000 Haitians have come to Brazil looking for a better life, unfortunately that’s not what they got, instead what they got was:

Haitians are affected by racism in various everyday situations, like when they take a bus, and in gaining access to the labor market and to public services.
Professor Gláucia Assis

The interesting thing was that I didn’t hear anything about the response of the Church. This small town that we were staying in was far away from where most of the Haitians had entered Brazil, that was in the state of Acre in the north, and so, it had taken a long time for this to become a problem for this small town, but had been an issue for other cities and states over the course of the last seven years. But there was no response from the Church! That is the thing that startled me a little. There was still this idea, and it’s an idea that I don’t like, of nationalism, of ownership of a place, an allegiance to a made up country.

If we are to take the Gospel seriously, then we have to remind ourselves of the true story – the story of God, not the story of our nation – the story that matters is the story of how God is making all things new, and about how He is bringing reconciliation to all people. We should be a people (the Church) who look to see this happen today, Paul fought for it in his letter the the church in Ephesus, there was deep racial division in that church, and Paul pointed out that the Gospel changes all of that, especially for us who are not born of the people of Israel:

“So then, remember that at one time you were Gentiles in the flesh — called “the uncircumcised” by those called “the circumcised,” which is done in the flesh by human hands. At that time you were without Christ, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility.”
Ephesians 2:11-14

It is my prayer that, in this age of globalisation, the Church can be a place that helps to welcome and acclimate people to another country, that offers a space for them to belong, and will accept them as they are, without forcing them to change who they are just to fit in. It is a terrible thing to feel that you must give up your whole culture to be accepted, because you lose who you are.

Let us be a place of reconciliation, a place where national and ethnic lines mean less to us that the God who reigns over the entire world. If we believe that, then let’s act like it!

To summarise what I learnt about immigrants in two points:

  1. God has a special love for the stranger and the alien
  2. Our response is to be one of compassion, love, and service.

Question:What is the biggest thing that you feel could revolutionise the way the Church in your locality deals with people from other nations?

Featured image credit:
Anurag Arora

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