In 1939, a cruise ship left Germany. Its passengers were not German elite or Nazi commanders. Instead, they were more than 900 Jewish people fleeing Nazi persecution. The ship set sail for Cuba where it was expected they would be welcomed. Instead, the ship was turned away. Next the refugee passengers came to find safe haven in the USA. But they were also rejected with the ship heading next to Canada only to once again be refused entry. At this point the ship had no choice but to return to Europe.
Upon returning, the people then attempted to enter into Western European countries and some of the passengers were able to find safety. Unfortunately, upwards of 250 people on the ship returned to die in the very concentration camps they were fleeing.
This is the story of the MS St. Louis. If you are a movie buff, you may remember “Voyage of the Damned” from 1976. (And if that is before your time, go watch it.) As with every historical story, there are disputes over the exact reasons for the tragedy. Many people point to two reasons the Jewish refugees were denied entry into the USA and Canada.
- xenophobia – there was a strong anti-Semitic attitude in both countries
- fear of setting a precedent – the question was stated “if we allow them to enter, won’t that encourage many more to come here?”
But times have changed, right? No good Christian would disallow entrance to our country to large numbers of people fleeing persecution and almost certain death. Not in 2015!
Today we are faced with an estimated 9 million Syrian refugees fleeing persecution and death. We see their faces and stories on every TV station and newspaper. The internet is filled with articles both for and against countries accepting them. (In this blog post, we are choosing to ignore the level of accuracy of many of the “reports”.)
The reasons being given to reject them from being accepted into Canada and the USA:
- There are too many of them
- They are Muslim and some may be terrorists
Are you ok with those reasons? Do they sound scarily familiar to you? If a movie was to be made 30 years from now about how we dealt with the Syrian refugee crisis, would you rather it be Schindler’s List or Voyage of the Damned? As Christians, we have the chance to stand up and make a statement and take action in a way that honors God and obeys His commands.
Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. – Exodus 22:21
Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt. – Exodus 23:9
‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ – Matthew 25:35-40
Let’s get it right this time.