First we need to welcome and help refugees.
In order to do this we need to put more and more pressure on governments in developed countries to accept more refugees. Lebanon, such a small country, with a population of 5 million people and a weak economy is hosting 1.5 million Syrian refugees. The rest of the neighbouring countries did the same. In Egypt we accepted a quarter of a million Syrian refugees in addition to 2.5 African refugees. After welcoming refugees in the country the churches can then cooperate with the government and UNHCR to provide for the needs of the refugees in a more holistic way. I was so encouraged by the appeal of Pope Francis when he asked every parish to host refugee family. It is so important that these refugees may encounter the love of Jesus in us.
In our refugee program in Egypt and Ethiopia we deal with thousands of refugees. We help them to find accommodation and shelters. In fact some of our churches in Ethiopia became shelters for the thousands who walked in from South Sudan. We also have programs to build their capacities so that they can find jobs. And we provide education for their children as well as health care through our clinics. I am sure you [others] do better than us in these areas. Let us see Jesus in each one of them and let us hear Him saying, “I was a stranger and you invited me in” when we meet them.
Secondly we need to participate in the development of the countries the refugees come from.
In other words we need to share our resources in order to develop these poor countries. Supporting education will decrease the frequency of wars, conflicts and tribal fighting because ignorance contributes to these wars. Investing in these poor countries will create job opportunities and reduce unemployment. This will also requires building the capacity of people specially the young people. If we failed to do this we will see masses of people moving from south to north.
My friends, let us remember what Jesus said: “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” (Luke 3,11)
Thirdly to be actively involved in peace-building when there are wars
Photo Credit: Diocese of Egypt
As Christians we should not be completely absorbed by what goes on in our churches but also we need think beyond our own situations. We need to work for the peace of other nations. When we turn blind eyes on the wars that are going on in other continents, we may soon find it happening at our doorsteps. In this regard, we need to constantly pray for peace of the world. Also we may need to encourage our governments to participate in peace-building. Many governments move in response to the pressure from the peoples. It is our mission to build peace as Jesus said: “Blessed are the peace makers, for they will be called children of God”. (Mathew 5,9)
The Most Revd Dr Mouneer Hanna Anis is Archbishop of Jerusalem & the Middle East and Bishop in Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa.