Rohingya refugee woman in a camp in Bangladesh

What Is God’s Heart for Refugees?

photo by Helen Manson/Tearfund NZ

It’s a tendency some of us have – though we may not want to admit it. We look at someone or something from afar and infer we know most everything about them. Their personalities, behavior, and why they made the decisions they did.

But when we ask ourselves how God sees each person, then our hastily formed opinions shift perspective.

So today, on World Refugee Day, let’s ask ourselves the question: What is God’s heart for refugees around the world?

God’s Heart for the Poor and Outcast

A boy wades through water in a refugee camp in Bangladesh
A Rohingya boy wades through contaminated water – hundreds of thousands are at risk of disease in the Kutupalong Refugee Camp.
We’re All Created in God’s Image

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27

Early in Genesis, we’re reminded that each person is created in God’s image. There are no restrictions, exceptions, or outliers – every human being bear’s God’s image and as such has inherent value.

Empathy for the Foreigner

Moses and the Israelites. Naomi. Mary and Joseph. At one time or another, all had to leave their home countries and live elsewhere. They serve as but a few of the numerous examples in Scripture of refugees.

For this reason, God calls His people to have compassion for the foreigner and the alien. He gives the command to “not oppress a foreigner because you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners…” (Exodus 23). They themselves were once refugees in Egypt, so they know first-hand what it is like to be a stranger in a foreign land.

The call is clear, and its one Jesus repeats during his ministry – to have empathy and care for the foreigner, alien, and refugee.

Kids go to school in a Rohingya refugee camp
Youth attend school in a Rohingya refugee camp. Photo by Helen Manson/Tearfund NZ
Compassion for the Marginalized

Throughout his ministry, Jesus healed, befriended, and had compassion on the poor and fatherless. We’re reminded in John how he went out of his way to speak with a Samaritan woman, in Mark how he had compassion on the little children, and in Luke how he invited the poor and outcast into His kingdom.

In God’s Kingdom division does not exist. He simply asks us to open our hearts and hands for those who do not have.

A Call to Care for the Poor

One of the most notable or rather convicting passages about caring for the poor and stranger comes from Matthew. Jesus tells his disciples when they care for the “least of these,” feeding the hungry and inviting in the stranger, it is as if they were doing it for him.

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25: 40

As part of World Concern’s mission and our desire to follow Christ, we go to the most vulnerable and marginalized people around the world. And right now, Rohingya refugees are some of the most marginalized, outcast, and in-need people not only in Bangladesh but globally.

How We Respond to Refugees Around the World

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly 
with your God.” Micah 6:8

It’s in the words of an Old Testament prophet we find our call to live out Jesus’s example.

Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly with your God.

God is not absent from the refugee camps in places like Bangladesh. He is there, walking among His people. When we go to the hardest places at the end of the road we do not bring Jesus with us but meet him there. God working among the Rohingya refugees is not contingent on our action or inaction. Rather, He invites us to join in the ministry of reconciliation to those who have yet to learn about His love.

rohingya siblings in Bangladesh
World Concern President Jacinta Tegman visits with two Rohingya sisters who were orphaned while fleeing their home.

Part of World Concern’s mission indicates why we do what we do, “The love of Christ compels us…” It does not compel us to read and forget, to feel and forget, but to act. Micah’s words are not stagnant, but active. We don’t respond to a refugee crisis only to do a good thing, but because we know the depth of what Jesus has done for us, and that part of His call is to in turn share this love with others.

But we do not go with just words. Poverty is both spiritual and physical. Whether responding to a refugee crisis in Bangladesh or an impoverished village in Haiti, we do our best to meet both a person’s physical needs and heart needs.

What a powerful image of God’s heart, to be able to meet Him among the most vulnerable and witness a transformation.

Monsoon Rains Threaten Rohingya Families

Flooding in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh
Flooding is a major concern for children, many in danger of landslides or being swept away by heavy rain. Photo by Food for the Hungry

Today our minds turn to Bangladesh and the hundreds of thousands still displaced in squalid camps.

Among the 700,000 refugees are mothers, fathers, and siblings. Each with their own tale of loss and longing for a home they cannot return to. Many now in danger for their lives as the monsoon season begins in full force.

Their homes are built with bamboo and rest on unstable hillsides. One or two days of intense rain will wash away temporary homes and create mudslides that threaten lives.

Please prayerfully consider helping a Rohingya refugee family who represents God’s very heart refugees.

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