As I write this, there is chaos at our southern border. Countless thousands hope to use international asylum protocols to escape poverty, failed narco- states, and the devastating effects of climate change, though this is not their purpose. There are boats in the Mediterranean and the English Channel... same thing. Then there are the millions displaced by war, including both Ukrainians fleeing Putin's invasion and Russians fleeing Putin's draft. And lets not forget the permanently displaced, Palestinian victims of ethnic cleansing, countless Muslims rendered stateless by nationalist regimes in Myanmar and India.
On January 8th, we will celebrate a refugee family. The gospel traditionally attributed to Matthew portrays the Holy Family, warned by the Magi, fleeing to Egypt as Herod's soldiers slaughter the male infants of Bethlehem, an effort to snuff-out the messianic promise.
Of course, that child was born into a people that knew a thing or two about migration and displacement. Originating in Iraq (Ur), they had moved to Palestine (Canaan), fled to Egypt (still just Egypt!) during a famine, escaped Egypt back to Palestine, were conquered and permanently displaced into Diaspora (The “Lost” Tribes) or conquered and temporarily held in Iraq (Babylon) before returning to Palestine.
Humans migrate for many reasons, sometimes involuntarily forced from their homes, sometimes seeking safety, sometimes seeking opportunity. We begin our worship every Sunday with a land acknowledgment, naming the genocide and ethnic cleansing that drove the Indigenous Peoples of North America onto the most inhospitable lands. We remember the Underground Railroad that brought the formerly enslaved to freedom, though the Great Migration would come later, a flight from Jim Crow and the lynching tree. The vibrant LGBTQI+ communities of big coastal cities, especially New York and San Francisco, served as safe havens for those who were brutalized and all too often killed in the misnamed American Heartland.
This season, as we remember that holy family on the run, I pray for refugees, whether they are fleeing drone attacks in Kherson, narcotrafficking in Tegucigalpa, or the bullying of Ron DeSantis. May we stand, always, with the vulnerable, fighting for a just world for all.