Monday, 7 September 2015

Who is My Neighbour

The heart rending picture of Alan Kurdi, the drowned three-year-old, from Syria who washed ashore on a beach in Turkey is one of those iconic pictures which has captured the conscience of people in Canada and around the world.  We can only hope and pray that this picture may result in some good in the response to the ongoing refugee tragedy.

I didn’t need anything to bring the picture to mind since I saw that picture.  However, the Gospel readings for the last two Sundays in the Book of Common Prayer brought it into even great focus for me.  The Gospel readings from both Sundays involve Samaritans.  Two Sunday ago, the Thirteenth after Trinity, was the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan.  Here the Samaritan is the good neighbour who tends to the Jew on the side of the road while the priest and the Levite pass by on the other side.  The Gospel for yesterday, the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity accounted Jesus’ healing of the ten lepers.  The one who returns to give him thanks is the Samaritan—the other nine were Jews. 
It is good to remind ourselves that the Samaritans, in Jesus’ time, were the outcasts of the family.  The Samaritans inhabited the former Northern Kingdom during the Babylonian captivity.  The Samaritans worshipped the gods of the invaders along with YHWH and intermarried with them.  The Samaritans opposed repatriation of those returning from exile.  A great animosity arose between these close relatives and continued to Jesus’ time.  Jesus uses the Samaritan as an example of the despised outsider who is the true neighbour to the Jewish traveler by the road side and the one who gives thanks to God for being made whole.

If Jesus was walking amongst us today I have no doubt that he would be using the refugees from Syria in the account of the Good Samaritan and of being made whole.  We have a responsibility as Christians to respond to this refugee crisis.  I must admit that it took that heart rendering picture of Alan Kurdi to move me to action.  Beyond that it is up to us to shame our government into action is responding to this crisis.  It is most unfortunate that our government would wait until there is demand from the general public to do the right thing.  I was—shall I say highly disappointed— that the minister of citizenship and immigration, Chris Alexander would try, incorrectly, to blame the media’s inattention for the fact that the Canadian Government’s response had been totally inadequate.  The government system to respond to the refugee crises seemed to deliberately prevent most applications for refugees being processed. 

I trust this particular refugee crisis will pass in time.  However, one of the lessons here is that there is always a Samaritan who we want to treat as the despised outcast—and it doesn’t have to be on some foreign shore.  As Christians who are called to follow the teachings and example of Jesus we cannot wait for another heart rending picture of an Alan Kurdi to make us act. 

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