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03
Dec

The Stranger in our Midst

Posted by on in General Secretary's Blog
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When the Council of the European Baptist Federation (EBF) met in Rome, Italy, in 2010, one of the resolutions it affirmed dealt with the Christian attitude to strangers. "We believe," the EBF said, "that God commands us in the scriptures to love and to welcome the stranger. We urge all Baptists to show hospitality toward immigrants, refugees and ethnic minority groups and to work for a welcoming attitude in our societies."

According to the EBF, the resolution came against the background of "the fact that a generous openness toward strangers is being threatened through the presence of xenophobic groups in some political parties." The EBF resolution noted that Baptists in Europe "have sometimes known the experience of being oppressed and discriminated against" but have displayed an unwavering commitment to work and pray for "human rights for all people." It cited Deuteronomy 10:17-19 as one reason why the people of God hardly have an option but to show concern for strangers.

A similar desire to adhere to the biblical teaching calling God's people to value the stranger in their midst manifested itself in the Baptist Union of Australia (BUA). The National Council of Australian Baptist Ministries called on Australians to "oppose xenophobia and discrimination on the basis of ... ethnicity, culture and religion, and challenged Australian politicians to demonstrate their moral convictions and to exercise nonpartisan leadership in debates on immigration and refugee policy."

Among other Baptist groups that maintain a firm commitment to loving the stranger is American Baptist Churches, USA, which resolved to maintain its "historical role as an advocate of human rights for immigrants, refugees, migrants and asylum seekers." ABC USA also has pledged to continue its tradition in "resettlement of refugees and in assisting immigrants." The organization identifies the following as the basis for its commitment: "the Biblical mandate that we be a caring and hospitable community, that we love our neighbors, that we establish justice and proclaim liberty; because we have a sense of Christian responsibility to serve human needs; because of our commitment to respect the human rights of all people; and because we are mainly a nation of immigrants."

It should come as no surprise that that the BWA General Council meeting that took place in Prague, Czech Republic, in 2008, resolved to "renounce xenophobia and the misuse of immigration for political repression and division" and called on member bodies to "instill an ethic of love that supersedes ethnic, gender and political boundaries." The BWA resolution also called on churches and individuals to "grow in grace and hospitality through international friendships and relationships" and to renew their commitment "to live in love and justice with refugees and immigrants."

Is it likely that, every Baptist convention, union, federation and fellowship, would strongly support the call to love and to welcome strangers? Let's not forget the reminder in Hebrews 13:2: "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." And because God loves those we may regard as strangers, so, too, should we!

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Neville George Callam, a Jamaican, has been serving as general secretary and chief executive officer of the Baptist World Alliance since his election in Accra, Ghana in 2007.

Comments

  • Guest
    Peder Martin I. Liland Monday, 31 December 2012

    Great message, revolutionary, which also includes beggars and those who even have given up, strangers that should be made brothers and sisters.
    Like here in Lillesand, we had no church 110 years ago. But two brothers who emigrated to the US and became both wealthy in the timber-industry and healthy believers in Christ, decided to give a church to the town of their childhood. The Bethel Baptist Chapel was ready in 1903, two years before the BWA and three years before the BWA decision to have a support function to build churches. Close to 75 person will gather there tonight.

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