Adrian Matthews
Mission and migrants – theological reflection

It seems that everyone is talking about the migrant and refugee crisis. Over recent weeks and months we have seen thousands of Syrians, Afghans, Eritreans, Somalians, Nigerians and many others fleeing war, violence and persecution. We have seen them make their way to Europe in the hope of security and better lives. We have seen appalling news reports of their desperate and sometimes fatal efforts to reach European countries and have heard about the political fallout as politicians ponder how to respond. We have heard the Archbishop of Canterbury call on churches to provide sanctuary, and the Pope call on the faithful to follow his example and take in refugees.

Some Christian commentators have led a clarion call to take in every single displaced person; others have claimed that Christian faith is contributing to the problem. This reflection is not about what is happening now. Rather,  this resource is intended to stimulate thinking and
reflection about what happens in the long term to those people who come to live in the UK. What will happen to them when the emotions die down and the news switches to other concerns? The future of today’s migrants and refugees raises an urgent question about how the Church’s mission is shaped to respond to those to whom we pledge our loving service. Yes, we care today, because the pictures are so awful; why should we care tomorrow?

The missionary purpose of the Church is inextricably linked to God’s purpose for the
world. It is bound up with the long term future of human beings, the creation of conditions
for human freedom and flourishing which lead to ‘life abundant’ (John 10.10). So the mission
perspective requires us to ask questions about the ‘other side’ of the current crisis when the refugees have dropped out of sight of public attention. It is an important matter of mission that we come to a strategic focus on the better life that migrants and refugees hope for.

This reflection asks some practical and theological questions and these are explored, along with suggestions for appropriate and sustainable action.