"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." (Matthew 5:7, NIV)
Since the spring, the refugee crisis has dominated our screens. We have seen heart-rending images of desperate people in Turkey, Greece, Italy, Bulgaria, Germany and at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel in France. The crisis remains with us: if at times it has disappeared from the front pages, that is only because the media have tried to find variety in what they are reporting.
The causes are multiple. Obviously, war is a principal driver - in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, as people flee for their lives. But so, too, in the case of other places, is poverty, with a desire to move strengthened by the globally-marketed message that the western affluent lifestyle is the one to seek. Political unrest and oppression are also part of the picture. Ultimately, this vast movement of desperate and determined people is testimony to the devastating effects of human wickedness.
The fact that the migrants are heading to Europe also reminds us of the interconnectedness of the world. We cannot sit and watch our TVs and glibly think this is someone else’s problem. We have to face it, and deal with it.
It’s easy to sit and pontificate about what our government should do in response to a problem that is so complex and deep, and whose possible solutions lie abroad as well as at home. But however we deal with it, the Bible’s teaching points us to an approach driven by an attitude of mercy. That is specially true for the Christian, who has been shown great mercy by God.
In the words above, from the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus commends an attitude of mercy among His people. In his commentary on these verses, Dr Don Carson says, “Mercy embraces both forgiveness for the guilty and compassion for the suffering and needy.” Elsewhere in Matthew, the Lord Jesus particularly commends to His people the need to look out for each other in need (e.g. Matthew 10:42).
At StAG we are designating Sunday 18th October as Gift Day. We have these from time to time as a special opportunity for us all to express financially our particular thankfulness to God, as well as meeting the needs of our work in Cambridge. This year, as well as meeting the needs of our outreach and training work here, our plan is that half of what is given will go to the Christian organisation Open Doors, supporting Christian refugees in Syria (www.opendoorsuk.org).
We do not pretend that this is more than a drop in an ocean of need. But it is a genuine, practical way to help. Please consider your response.