Christian Refugees

April 27, 2017 1 Comment

Christian Refugees

Andrew Schmidt

At the time of writing, the big news is that new US President, Donald Trump, has suspended immigration from a number of predominantly Muslim nations including Syria, Iraq and Iran.  All refugee entries are also suspended for 120 days.  When they resume, refugee claims based on religious persecution will be prioritised.  Although the President’s executive order is neutrally worded, it favours Christian refugees.[1]

What should Christians think about Christian refugees being favoured?  Would we welcome such a policy in Australia?  The answer would presumably be ‘yes’, if the church were merely one more ‘special interest group’ lobbying to advance its cause in the political sphere.  But is that the way the church should function in our democracy?

Although they are often criticised, special interest groups have a valid place in our system.  It is legitimate in a democracy to advocate for one’s own interests, in the hope that these will be taken into account in the delicate balance to be struck between competing concerns.  For example, in the battle for the use of the Liverpool Plains, the farming and mining lobbies should be expected to put their own arguments as vigorously as they can (without deception), and it is up to government to balance these with the national interest in mind.

However, I suggest that the Christian church is not a special interest group in that sense.  We serve the God who made the heavens and the earth, and whose Son died for the sins of the whole world.  As a result, Christians are concerned for the whole world.  We have a responsibility to advocate for policies which, in the light of the gospel, are in the interests of everyone.

Our paramount concern must therefore be for policies which make it possible for Christians to continue spreading the gospel.  This explains the interesting occasion when the Apostle Paul stood on his rights and appealed to Caesar (Acts 25:10-11).  Paul was indeed trying to preserve his own life, but not for selfish reasons.  Rather, it was better for the spread of the gospel that he remained alive (compare Phil 1:23-24).   Of course, to someone who sees no importance in the spread of the gospel, Paul’s motivation might seem to be narrow self-interest, but if the gospel is true, then it truly was for the good of the whole world that the gospel’s chief spokesman should keep speaking. 

The same principle explains why the church today staunchly defends its ‘right’ to speak about Jesus through Scripture in public schools.  If the gospel is true, then it is good for everyone that this right be retained.

If, then, the key principle is that Christians stand on their rights when the gospel is at stake, there is no good reason to favour a policy which gives preference to Christian refugees.  To support it would smack of narrow Christian self-interest, rather than a Christ-like concern for the whole world.  

Against my view it might be urged that Christians are to regard each other as family (Jn 13:34; Gal 6:10), and that Western Christians should express their brotherly love by lobbying their governments to give preference to Christian refugees.  In reply, I would agree that comfortable Western Christians should reserve a special place in their hearts for those among the world’s displaced people who share their faith in Jesus.  However, such brotherly love can be expressed in other ways: always through prayer, but also through support of Christian agencies working among displaced people, and perhaps even, where the opportunity arises, through sponsoring migrations which might not otherwise have been possible.

Overall, then, Christian concern for the whole world points to a non-discriminatory refugee policy, but special brotherly love for fellow believers across the globe should be given real expression.



[1] (accessed 30.1.17)

1 Response

michael Lawrence
michael Lawrence

June 07, 2017

In this article Andrew Schmidt advocates that Christians should be favouring a non-discriminatory refugee policy. In other words that Christians should not be pressing for special advantage to be afforded Christian refugees. In fact discrimination is the basis of all immigration policy. Typically they discriminate using criteria of age, education, health, likelihood of gaining employment etc.

Sadly for our refugee program, there appears to be discrimination against Christian refugees applying for a visa to come to Australia. On Friday 10th February 2017 The Australian in an article by Julie Power, Christian Church leaders “claimed that 80% of all applications for refugee status for Iraqi and Syrian Christians had been rejected and that the vast majority of the federal government’s 12 000 humanitarian refugee visas were Sunni Muslims”. Given the genocide that has been unleashed on Christians and other non-Moslems in these two countries, (Dr Nicholas Al-Jeboo, 4 May 2016 NSW Parliament House address), they should be preferenced in the selection of eligible candidates for refugee status over Moslems who will be able to return home once the fighting has finished. For the non-Moslems there is little likelihood of any return possible. However they are being negatively discriminated against while in fact, they should be positively discriminated by being granted a visa. Such positive discrimination is operational in many situations in our society where disadvantaged groups are singled out for special attention. It also recognises the body of research which shows the greater ease of integration into Australia of Christians when compared to Moslems.

I have some experience in this matter having been a Council Member some years ago of the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney’s Overseas Relief and Aid Fund. At that time we operated a project in Egypt called ‘Refuge Egypt’ which aided all refugees regardless of their faith. But we had strong evidence that the Christian refugees applying for visas to Australia were discriminated against by the largely Moslem staff at the Embassy. As a consequence we made a submission to the authorities in Canberra but were not satisfied that the issue had ever been properly dealt with. It appears to me that the same issue is still a problem.

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