By Charles Lamb
Many are concerned about the thousands of children who are coming to the United States from Central America. There are calls to seal our border more securely and to make it clear to the Central American countries that we will not accept these people. They will be sent back. The danger to them is great and there is no reward at the end.
I understand that a chaplain at Chautauqua Institute spoke about that problem from the standpoint of Scripture. I did not hear the speech, but it set me to thinking about what the Christian response should be.
In Luke 9:12 and forward, we are told of a time when thousands of people had come to hear Jesus. The day was ending, and the disciples told Jesus, “Send the crowd away.” Jesus’ response was, “You give them something to eat.”
The disciple said they had very little food. But Jesus took what they had, asked God to bless it, and fed the 5,000-plus people there.
Some say it was a physical miracle; others interpret it as a lesson in sharing. At any rate, Jesus did not send them away; he cared for them.
What does that have to say about what our response should be to people who more accurately should be called refugees rather than immigrants? They are fleeing from dangerous places where the children may be victims of violence, forced into gangs or conscripted into the army while still children.
According to The Buffalo News of July 19, Mayor Stephanie Miner of Syracuse has written President Obama to say that Syracuse welcomes the chance to provide shelter to the children.
She had positive comments from the Catholic bishop, the chancellor of Syracuse University and the president of Le Moyne College, she says.
Miner said, “It’s something that we have done in the past and we’re very proud to do. But also, these are children, and it’s hard to watch this and think that saying anything other than ‘Let’s give them shelter in this humanitarian storm.’ It seems to be the appropriate way to respond to it.”
Syracuse is not the only community to react in this way. What is our response?
After the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in 1886, an inscription placed on it, written by Emma Lazarus. This is the message that the Statue of Liberty proclaimed:
Give me your tired, your poor.
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost, to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
What does America stand for? What do Christians stand for? What would Jesus have us do?
Charles Lamb of Youngstown is an ordained minister with standing in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and in the United Church of Christ.