Richard Lawton

Ghoulam and his family escaped the Taliban in Afghanistan and made their way to Australia via a people-smuggler and a leaky boat. They seek asylum in Australia, but room to house refugees while they wait for processing is quickly running out. The immigration department had a bright idea. In the hills behind the city of Adelaide is an army camp. Outside the camp are ninety houses, built for military families, that are not being used. Why not place ninety asylum-seeking families there?

When the government announced the move, residents of the nearby town erupted. “Why weren’t we consulted? Our school is already full. Our medical facilities are about to reach capacity. Our streets will no longer be safe.” Some of their concerns were reasonable and have been addressed. The townspeople denied being prejudiced, but I wonder if they would have raised the same concerns if the government had said that ninety soldiers’ families would occupy those houses.

When was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you?
Matthew 25:38a (NRSV)

The townspeople were afraid of the unknown, of people whose culture and religion was different from theirs. Jesus taught that, in God’s eyes, people are people, regardless of where they come from or what they believe, Jesus welcomed the stranger. Can we do less?


REFLECT ON MATTHEW 25:31–45: What insights does this scripture offer about isms? How does it address issues facing your community today?

—from devozine (September/October 2011). Copyright © 2011 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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