Who do you say I am?

Clare McBeath is co-principal of Northern Baptist College and was one of the women who took part in the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland women’s delegation to visit Greece, May 2016.

I was welcomed into someone’s home. It was immaculately clean, tidy and soft underfoot, the shade providing a welcome relief from the blistering heat of the sunshine outside.

I was offered coffee which was freshly brewed while we talked. We spoke of running a hairdressing business, of homes, cars and a daughter at university. We spoke of aspirations for the future for us and particularly for our children.

CTBI group on a visit to Greece to assess the new Syrian refugee crisis which is unfolding in the country. Here pictured is the 'wild' camp at the Eko Gas station which was originally just a stop off point on the way to the Macadonian border but since the border closed early March, has become semi-permenant. Delegates l-r Clare McBeath, Christine Elliot, Judith Morris, Katheryn Viner with Joulie Gindi translating after being invited into a tent for coffee.

CTBI group on a visit to Greece to assess the new Syrian refugee crisis which is unfolding in the country. Here pictured is the ‘wild’ camp at the Eko Gas station which was originally just a stop off point on the way to the Macadonian border but since the border closed early March, has become semi-permenant. Delegates l-r Clare McBeath, Christine Elliot, Judith Morris, Katheryn Viner with Joulie Gindi translating after being invited into a tent for coffee.

All of this may not sound in the least bit unusual. But the home I was welcomed into was a tent pitched on the edge of a makeshift camp in the grounds of a petrol station, known as Eko Gas Station, just a mile or so up the road from Idomeni and the border between Greece and Macedonia.

The coffee I drank was brewed over a portable gas stove and served in tiny plastic cups. The hairdressing business was no more; the building in Aleppo, Syria razed to the ground in a bombing raid.

The home had been left in a hurry and the car had been sold to pay smugglers for the passage through Turkey to Greece. The daughter at university had had her degree in Persian Literature interrupted; aspirations for the future now consisted of the hope that the border would reopen so they could join their daughter’s husband in Germany.

As we sat cross-legged and listened to Fatima and Waheed’s story the words of Jesus to Peter came to the fore:

“Who do you say I am?”

And these words stayed with me for the whole of our time in Greece.

From desperate people shoving identity documents through security fences at us hoping we would be able to somehow reunite them with their families elsewhere in Europe, to people following us down the road and asking us to write their names down and to remember them, Jesus’ question “Who do you say I am?” rang out.

Because the refugee crisis, as we call it, goes right to the heart of who we are as human beings. Human beings made in the image of God.

Peter’s answer to Jesus was clear. You are the Christ.

CTBI group on a visit to Greece to assess the new Syrian refugee crisis which is unfolding in the country. Pictured is the 'wild' camp at the Eko Gas station which was originally just a stop off point on the way to the Macadonian border but since the border closed early March, it has become a semi-permanent camp.

CTBI group on a visit to Greece to assess the new Syrian refugee crisis which is unfolding in the country. Pictured is the ‘wild’ camp at the Eko Gas station which was originally just a stop off point on the way to the Macadonian border but since the border closed early March, it has become a semi-permanent camp.

When the people we met, living as refugees in desperate circumstances, ask us who do we say they are, the answer too is clear. They are Christ, Christ incarnate living among us. Christ who is both the host welcoming and breaking break but also the guest coming to us in need and asking for bread.

We are called to respond likewise as both the host, finding room in our hearts for those who come to us as refugees, but also as the guest receiving of their stories and coffee and of what they teach us of who we are, our identity. For we are all one in Christ.

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