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Reform Magazine | November 20, 2017

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Chapter & verse: Mark 13:14-23

Chapter & verse: Mark 13:14-23

Catherine Lewis-Smith unpacks Jesus’ teaching on refugees

One of the privileges of my ministry is working with asylum seekers who are sent to live in our little town while the Home Office considers whether or not they have the right to stay in Britain. Whether the asylum seekers are Christian or not, this Bible text is one that they know in their guts. The horror nowadays may not take the form of an abomination standing in the Temple sanctuary, but Mark’s narrative aside ‘let the reader understand’ suggests it never did. We will understand it when we see it, and it is the thing that means it is time to flee.

For many of the asylum seekers I work with, there was no time to plan or pack. Some mothers left children behind. One father cries every day because he was working away from home – as many in the oil industries do – when the situation changed. He cannot go back for his children, he can only pray for them, and sometimes phone them. How terrible for the parents who can no longer hold their children, and for the children and teenagers who get separated from their family by the complexity of the journey to safety. This is the terror that Mary and Joseph knew briefly, when Jesus became separated from them on a journey to Jerusalem and back again.

Winter has been harsh on the refugee camps in Europe, and on the borders of countries across the Middle East and Africa. It has been horrendous for the children displaced from camps in Calais, who went from an unsafe place of hope to outright dangerous places, where the people offering hope do not speak truly. Jesus told us to ‘pray that it may not be in winter’. Did we not pray hard enough? Could we do more, ahead of next winter, to find places of safety and places of healing for those caught up in awful horror? With so many people displaced across the world, we can be certain that there will still be people seeking safety next winter. …

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This is an extract from the March 2017 edition of Reform.

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