Bible, Main, Opinion, z103
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Migrants, Border Jumpers, Refugees, and Us


Credit: Amout Wurst/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: Amout Wurst/Flickr/Creative Commons

I saw something the other day, and it shocked me. This is not new for me, but I don’t like to be reminded that I am correct. We think we are good people, but reality can tell a different story.

I have a volunteer contract with a famous Christian charity. I won’t name them and I won’t report what happened inside their building, to keep confidentiality, but they are famous everywhere for helping the poorest and most desperate.

My job is to teach their staff how to write administrative reports, which fits some of my skill set.

Two days ago, I reported for a tutorial session at a location in the inner city, and I was shocked. Outside, in the alley I saw several African people. Later, when I drove home, I saw more of them wandering the streets in our poorest neighborhood. My impression was that they were desperate and unhappy and they were begging for help from organized charities. The inner city is also called skid row, or the slums, and it is the usual home of people addicted to drugs or alcohol, or people with mental health issues. Every large city has a place like that.

So, who are these Africans? In this northern city, I have neighbors who have immigrated from Africa, and they are generally educated and prosperous, in the suburbs. I see them in church on Sunday. We also have new arrivals from places like Ethiopia and Somalia, and they work in industry, to build new lives for their families. I train many of them in industrial safety, which helps them apply for better jobs. In my experience, they are cheerful and hard working, and optimistic about the future.

The newest African immigrants seem lost and confused. From the news we know that migrants from poor countries are struggling to enter wealthy countries. There are many stories of people in leaky boats, crossing the Mediterranean.

In Canada, where I live, we have thousands of people walking across the border from the U.S., and the government can’t cope. The cost is estimated at near 200 million and climbing, and it’s not clear who will pay, or who can pay. I think I saw the results a few days ago.

The news about places far away has come close to me.

There is a huge debate, around the world, about border-jumpers versus compassion for refugees, and open borders versus national security, and I don’t want join that debate here. What I saw was poverty and donor fatigue. The authorities can’t process and support, and they won’t turn back or deport. The authorities don’t want to look bad, so they everyone is admitted and left to wander the streets in the worst slums. After many years they may have a hearing with a refugee board, maybe.

I wish I was making this up.

The only help left is the Christian charities that cater to the lost people on skid row. There is no other religion or belief system, and certainly no atheist club, that is offering any help in those dangerous neighborhoods. I was the managing director of an inner-city mission, years ago, and I know we could not offer much help. I remember baloney sandwiches, and tea, and used clothing; and a very small salary for me. A few Vietnamese boat people came and talked to us, but they needed other resources, and those were short conversations.

In the Bible, the nation of Israel was in distress, and their enemy’s propaganda was “You say you have counsel and might for war—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? Look, I know you are depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it! Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who depend on him.” (Isaiah 36: 5 and 6)

I think we have become that broken reed. It may be kinder to send some people back than to pretend to care so that we can feel good about ourselves. In these secular times, we have the conceited belief that we are good without God. I saw the reality, and no, we are not.

We are the fools who say “No God.”

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. (Psalm 14: 1 and 2)

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