Chaotic scenes of panic with heartbreaking images of people desperately fleeing from Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover has recently dominated the news. Images of people clinging to airplanes escaping the country. Others of men in tunics wielding guns in government offices and walking on the streets. Many showed people being blocked in the streets from reaching an airport. Fear and a dreadful uncertainty reign in Afghanistan. The country’s future is alarmingly unclear. Most Afghans are devastated, depressed, and defeated. For it seems that their 20 year war with the Taliban is now all but lost. Already, refugees are streaming out of Afghanistan into neighbouring countries. The critical question is what does the Lord expect of Christians in response to this crisis?
I Commend My Country, Uganda
The response globally to this catastrophe has been mixed, with a reaction of embrace on one hand and exclusion on the other hand. Some nations such as Pakistan have purposed to exclude refugees from Afghanistan. This is by closing the borders and tightening the entry of refugees. Some nations are embracing and welcoming the refugees. Uganda was one of the first countries to embrace Afghan refugees.
Uganda has one of the most open-door policies to refugees in the world.
Less than 48 hours after the crisis in Afghanistan, Uganda was preparing to welcome 2000 Afghan refugees. These refugees are bound for the city of Kampala. Even without much detail in place, Uganda has chosen to embrace the refugees. With some 1.5 million refugees already, Uganda has experience in receiving and hosting refugees. In fact, Uganda is home to more refugees than any other African country, while it is the third largest host globally. Uganda has one of the most open-door policies to refugees in the world. This is commendable.
How Should Christians Respond to Refugees from Afghanistan?
But the critical questions are whether the church in Africa is prepared to host refugees from Afghanistan. Is Africa ready to receive refugees from Afghanistan? Administratively and politically, are there policies and systems in place to build on? How can the church in Africa prepare for the refugees that will be coming to live among us this week? What does the Lord require of us in this regard? What is expected of each follower of Christ Jesus concerning the Afghan crisis? As I’ve argued in the past, the church has a responsibility to respond to the plight of refugees, wherever they come from.
The church has a responsibility to respond to the plight of refugees.
The writing of Micah helps inform what the Lord expects of us in this situation. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). There are at least three things the church can prepare to do in welcoming these refugees from Afghanistan, both now and possibly in years to come.
1. Seek Justice for Refugees
First, the Lord expects us to act justly, “to do justice”. This is reaching out to the refugees in our spaces and meeting their needs. The world is dark and dying. Evil surrounds us. Therefore rather than waiting for the refugees to come to us seeking help let us reach out to them at their point of need. For as Christians we must treat strangers with dignity and hospitality.
Rather than waiting for the refugees seek help let us reach out to them.
This will almost certainly involve getting out of our comfort zones, perhaps even advocating for the refugees in Uganda and the world. The church must speak up for these refugees from Afghanistan, giving voice to the marginalised. Even if it means we become unpopular among our countrymen, Christians must seek justice for the refugees in their midst.
2. Show Mercy and True Hospitality
Secondly, God exhorts Christians to love mercy. Thus we must extend mercy towards the refugees from Afghanistan. This will mean embracing them. It will also mean supporting them as they integrate into their new lives away from their own country. Christians should build relationships with Afghans. These are relationships of genuine care and concern.
Christians must be graciously relational towards the refugees.
We must exercise the above at a personal, individual level. Therefore Christians should welcome refugees into their homes, schools, and communities. Mercy might even mean helping them to both survive and thrive in Kampala. We must go out of our way to build relationships with a few Afghans, sharing our lives with them and inviting them to share theirs with us. In short, Christians must be graciously relational towards the refugees from Afghanistan. For in the end they are not mercy projects but people in need of our mercy.
3. Walk Humbly with God
Thirdly, the Lord commands us to walk humbly before him. Thus the church ought to pray for the situation in Afghanistan. Christians need to walk closely with God, through the disciplines of prayer, studying the word, witnessing, and fellowship. The strength of the Christians can only be truly buttressed by their relationship with God. This is modelling our lives after the Son, who regularly prayed to the Father. Our efforts in embracing refugees will be worthless if we do not walk closely after the Lord.
“God has Told You What is Good”
Ready or not, there are refugees all around us. The Church in Africa can no longer ignore this fact. Thus we must embrace the refugees from Afghanistan. Just as Jesus identified with strangers, churches should be hospitable. The situation seems overwhelming, so it’s tempting to run away from it. But God is clear regarding what he expects of us: to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with him. Are we going to meet the Lord’s expectations and embrace these refugees?