People are on the move. If you turn on the television, open a newspaper, look at the number of different restaurants on your High Street or count the number of different languages you can hear on a bus or railway journey, you will realise that we are becoming a more diverse country. People are moving to the UK and Europe from all over the world. Some of the people arriving on our shores are escaping war, famine and persecution, others are coming here to join family members, or to study, or to look for business opportunities.
At times it may seem that mass migration is a new phenomenon, but as it says in Ecclesiastes 1:9, ‘there is nothing new under the sun’. People have been on the move since Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden. Throughout the Old Testament the people of Israel were often either on the move from one place to another, or they were in exile, or living under the threat of occupation. The New Testament records that, for a few early years in his childhood, Jesus was a refugee when his parents took him to Egypt to escape King Herod’s murderous soldiers. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise to us to learn that the Bible has much to say on the subject of migration and in particular the responsibility of Christians towards people who have migrated to their area. The Hebrew word ‘Ger’, which is often translated as alien, stranger or sojourner, appears 83 times in the Old Testament. Jesus was clear that he expected his followers to treat their neighbours as themselves.
A deeper look at the biblical narrative reveals how God continued to work through his people as they moved around the Middle East. In these three studies, we reflect on how the theme of migration is woven into the biblical narrative, along with what the Bible says about migrants and, in particular, how as Christians we should welcome and care for them. Lastly, we will consider how recent patterns in migration are opening up new opportunities for outreach among people who have arrived on our doorstep from areas of the world that up to now have been difficult to reach.