Tag Archives: immigrants

Fear of the other

Today’s first reading from Exodus (1: 8-14.22) reminded me of the politics of refugees and migrants which seems to be overtaking parts of Europe and the United States.

A new king, who knew nothing of Joseph, came to power in Egypt. He said to his people, “Look how numerous and powerful the people of the children of Israel are growing, more so than we ourselves! Come, let us deal shrewdly with them to stop their increase; otherwise, in the event of war they too may join our enemies to fight against us, and so escape from our land.”

The fear of the “other” and the assumption that they are bent on our downfall are so ingrained in much of the public discourse that I wonder if there is something else going on. Rulers and powerful countries seem to be unsure of themselves and so anything different is a threat.

But most of all they forget the good things that the “other” has done and is doing, just as the new Pharaoh forget Joseph. They look at the negative, fearful of their own downfall. The attitude is that it is either “us” or “them.”

But where is God?

On the side of the other.

As we will hear later this week (Exodus 3) God hears their cries:

“The cry of the children of Israel has reached me, and I have truly noted that the Egyptians are oppressing them.”

Where are we?

God and aliens

Befriend the stranger.
Deuteronomy 8: 19 

So often the immigration debate is conducted in terms of issues of economics or security: what will these immigrants do to my standard of living? how will they affect my security?

On the other hand, advocates of immigrants often rely on an appeal to human rights, to the immigrants themselves. How can we deny these people a chance to live and seek a decent life?

But today’s reading from Deuteronomy 10: 12-22 moves the debate to an entirely different level: who is God for us?

After recalling how God had chosen his people in love, Moses tells the people not to be stiff-necked.

Why?

The Lord, your God … shows no favor and takes no bribes; … executes justice
for the orphan and the widow, and befriends the alien, feeding and clothing him.

This is the way God acts – befriending the aliens.

In one sense we are all aliens. We did not come into this world on our own. We do not live in this world solely by our powers.

We are, as another passage of scripture (1 Peter 2: 11) puts it, all aliens and strangers, sojourners on this earth.

But God befriends us and chooses us.

And so we are called to do the same:

 So you too must befriend the alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.