It is Christ we are welcoming when we open our hearts to migrants and refugees

The Old Testament teaches that strangers and the homeless in general deserve special treatment from the believer. God clearly and repeatedly recommends hospitality and generosity toward the stranger, reminding Israel of how precarious its own existence had once been.

And the New Testament is filled with verses that tell us to care for the immigrant. Never is this more eloquently expressed than in Matthew 25 when Jesus tells us to welcome “the stranger,” because “whatever you did for the least of these, you did it for me.” That makes clear our duty to help the migrants, not reject them.

We are children of God, and God calls us to love our neighbor. Our neighbors live across the street, across the county, across borders, oceans and hemispheres. Our neighbors don’t always look like us, pray like us, dress like us or talk like us, but each one deserves a chance to flourish in this life. Parents and children desperately need food, shelter, safety and a chance to rebuild their lives. Our church teaches that people have a right to meet their needs at home and the right to leave when they cannot. Governments have a duty to protect them, and it is our obligation to help those who are suffering.

Forced displacement of people is at the highest level since World War II, with more than 65 million people displaced around the world.

Today, Nebraska hosts many thousands of migrants and refugees, who have left their native land to avoid persecution, for fair employment, security and opportunities for their families.

It is important that we create a culture of encounter in communities where migrants and refugees have come to build a better life, to hear firsthand their personal stories and experiences, to assure them of the church’s solidarity with them, and to remember that it is Christ we are welcoming when we open our hearts to migrants and refugees.