It had been my intention to write about Labor Day this weekend. But then, like so many of you, I saw the picture of Aylan, the three-year-old boy who died on the beach in Turkey as he and his family attempted to flee ISIS and the civil war in Syria.
There have been other devastating pictures – the throngs of refugees marching through Hungary to reach the Austrian border because officials stopped their train, the truck in which 50 refugees were left to suffocate in Austria, the stricken faces of those crammed into makeshift camps in Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, and Lebanon.
But it was Aylan I thought of again when Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, issued a statement yesterday, encouraging us all to stand in “prayerful solidarity” with the refugees. She wrote, "Remembering that our Lord was once a refugee, we are called to welcome the stranger and recognize that protection, hospitality, and respect for the stranger are deeply rooted in all major faith traditions. I urge our members to pray for and with these sisters and brothers in peril, and I call us to extend our hands in assistance. We pray also alongside our companion churches, other Lutheran World Federation member churches, and ecumenical partners as they continue their compassionate response to those in need and pledge to continue our material support…The words of St. Matthew call us: ‘I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’"
The Syrian exodus is the greatest refugee crisis the world has seen since World War II. The U.N. predicts there could be 4.27 million Syrian refugees by the end of 2015. There are many worthy organizations working on this crisis: Bishop Eaton recommends contributions to Lutheran Disaster Response. As followers of the Child who sought safety in a foreign land, let us pray, give, and learn how else we can help.
“The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.'”