By Angel Infantes
A country at war pushes people to seek refuge, to migrate. Lately, we have seen this in Syria and Ukraine.
Both the local church and the church globally realize at this moment their response is to help displaced people. The maxim of “loving your neighbour” stirs the believer inside, translating into actions of compassion, commitment of time, skills, finances, and even to risk their own lives.
This last was an action taken by Cinthia and Martin Corona, Mexican missionaries in Ukraine. They decided to stay in the city of Dnipro to help people by taking them to the border with Poland and returning with groceries for people who cannot leave the country. Corona says, “We felt that we couldn’t leave just like that; we couldn’t turn our backs on people and pretend nothing was happening.” Believers in other nearby countries have not waited to help Ukrainians suffering because of the war.
Western society has responded by opening its borders to receive millions of displaced people. As members of that society, we long for this to be the standard of commitment to help the most vulnerable in all conflicts.
Some critical voices point out the different attitudes of some countries toward refugees from past conflicts. At times, these countries have taken action to stop refugees from crossing borders, halt those fleeing by sea from reaching the coast, and keep them in refugee camps for years. While society tries to justify its behaviour due to its religious and ethnic proximity, the church needs to act differently.
We welcome governments opening their countries’ doors to refugees and encourage them to continue to do so. But believers need to go further, faced with the age-old dilemma of “who is my neighbour?” The fulfillment of the commandment is revealed when the one considered an “enemy” discovers the image of God in the helpless along the road, which moves him to compassion.
Similar is the action of God in sending his Son so that everyone, without partiality, can attain a full life. That is our model.
The movements of large groups of people across the planet occur in all directions. In the South American context, in the 1990s there were up to two million refugees living in Ecuador. Currently, more than four million Venezuelans found refuge in Colombia, and more than one million in Peru. In spite of poverty, many people in these countries have continued to show solidarity with refugees. These countries do not provide a house or a job but a community into which little by little refugees can integrate.
The church in Canada has been welcoming refugees for years. In 2009, our home church sponsored a refugee family; MCC provided the names. A group from the church went to welcome the family at the airport. Our gazes did not rest on any of the people who descended the stairs but on a lady that approached a group of people beside the stairs. “Do you speak Spanish?” she asked. It was an Afro-Colombian family. It was one of those moments your inner self is exposed and touched by the grace of God at the same time, and you understand who your neighbour is.
Just as this emergency in Ukraine has opened the hearts of many, it must remain open for others skin colours as well, who also bear the image of God, which means everyone.
Angel Infantes (Aberdeen EMC) serves with EMC Missions in Guadalajara, Mexico, together with his wife Blanca and their four children.