“History’s most famous refugee”

Cinnamon Network founder Matt BirdA blog post at Christmas by Cinnamon Network’s founder Matt Bird took the topic of “history’s most famous refugee”.

As Christmas approaches we remember the birth of history’s most famous refugee, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The reigning King at the time of Jesus’s birth was fearful that his monarchy would be threatened by this child who, it was predicted, would become King. So he commanded the genocide of all new born boys. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, was awakened in the middle of the night and warned of this threat, so he and his wife, Mary, took Jesus and fled to North Africa.

Matt Bird reminds his readers that “initial feelings of disorientation, loneliness and discomfort” can follow any major change or move.

Magnified several thousand times, that can give us a clue to begin imagining what refugees might be going through. If we were arriving penniless, friendless and hopeless in a foreign country, how would we want to be treated? And how should we translate that to how we respond to Syria?

The scale of displacement is enormous. Writing in December 2015 …

There are 18 million Syrians, four out of five of whom are living in extreme poverty. The UN has estimated that 7.6 million Syrians have fled their homes within Syria and a further 3.8 million have left the country and are refugees. Syria is now the world’s largest source of refugees. Many have travelled north into Europe which is now experiencing one of the largest movements of people in contemporary history.

With the UK Government’s Syria Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme planning to resettle up to 20,000 Syrians in need during this Parliament …

… over the coming years, we will meet refugees in our communities and workplaces, so it’s worth pausing to consider our attitude towards them.

… The Bible gives us the key to how we should treat the stranger living amongst us. It tells the story of how, hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, the Israelites were oppressed, enslaved and subjected to forced labour by the Egyptian Pharaoh. Years later God told the Israelites, “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt“ (Exodus 22:21).

Therefore, we should treat the stranger in our midst as we would wish them to act towards us or our loved ones.

Matt Bird explains that this was the inspiration for Cinnamon Network’s welcome boxes used by churches working with local authorities to welcome refugees.

Cinnamon Network logoYou can read the full blog post on the Cinnamon Network website.

Cinnamon Network emerged in 2010 when fifty Christian CEOs and leaders were challenged to consider how the Christian community could deliver more local transformation at national scale and to do so at speed. The network exists to enable people and resources to transform their communities and help those in social need.