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Treating Immigrants like Jesus
‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
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.’ (Mt 25:35-40)
The New York Times has written about my little country, Sweden, and how we treat poor immigrants from Romania. It’s not a happy read:
From media reports, Expo has counted 77 attacks against beggars in the last 18 months, though charities assume such crime is underreported.
The attacks include one in Malmo, where tents in a Roma camp were set on fire; another in Boras, where a beggar was run over by a moped; and one in Skara, where at least one migrant was hit by a pellet from an air rifle.
I’m very involved in this situation; as I have shared previously I am almost daily helping poor Romanian immigrants. I have started a small organization with some friends to support them and help them to get housing and an income, and I personally know about 100 people in this situation. The hatred and racism that NY Times is reporting about is something I witness all the time, and I’ve had countless discussions with people who are convinced that these extremely poor beggars are rich, criminal liars who should be deported. (more…)
The Desperate Need for Christian Hospitality
Have you ever wanted to meet an angel? If so, let some homeless people into your home.
Scripture says: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebr 13:2). And even if the person we’re hosting turns out to be mere human, that’s not a very big problem since we are then simply doing a very good deed: “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Rom 12:13).
In Sweden where I live, almost 50% of all the households are single households, meaning that only one person lives in them. We have almost half a million vacation houses standing empty most months of the year. And yet, so many – even Christians – are arguing that we don’t have space for more immigrants, that we should send Syrian refugees back to war and Romanian beggars back to misery. How about showing some hospitality instead?
“Can you help me because I do not have food!”
For the last two months, a friend of mine have contacted me almost every day, asking me for money. I trust her and know that she is in genuine need, but sending money via Western Union is so costly, and I am genuinely surprised that not a single soul in Coventry, UK, is giving her the help she needs. I’m very disappointed with the British churches, they have so far failed miserably when it comes to helping a mother in need.
I got to know Denisa when she was begging on the streets of Uppsala, Sweden, where I live. Being originally from Romania as most beggars in our town, she spoke very good English. It turned out that her mother lived in Coventry and that Denisa had studied there, but when her mother ran out of money she went to Sweden to beg.
Because of her language skills she actually got a job here that lasted until summer 2014. Then she and her husband Mugurel were begging for some months before they moved to Romania for a brief period of time. Having no source of income there, they then travelled to Coventry even though they had hardly any money and no income.
Two months ago Denisa gave birth to their first child. She contacted me and said that she needed money to get a place to stay and money for food. I helped her with the rent costs and asked her to go to the Jesus Centre in Coventry, run by the Jesus Army. She went there several times, but unfortunately they hardly helped her. I’m not surprised that they couldn’t give her money or housing (which she initially hoped for) but at least I expected them to help her with food. I mean, here’s a mother with a newborn child with no source of income at all!
However, they told me from the Jesus Centre that they could only give food on Tuesdays. And when she did get food there was no baby food at all, even though they knew that she had a baby. That’s just plain ridiculous, unworthy of a social centre that bears Jesus’ holy name.
So I send her money for food, but since I’m helping a lot of other families here in Sweden I’m running out of funds myself. And I don’t get how there is nobody in Coventry that can make sure that an infant won’t starve. I’ve tried to contact other churches but there has been no sufficient response. And so Denisa is contacting me almost every day on Facebook simply writing:
“Can you help me because I do not have food”
If you live in Coventry or at least the UK and want to help Denisa somehow, just call her on 07824070060. I especially pray that my friends at the Jesus Army will understand the seriousness of this situation.
I’m Obliged to Help the Poor
Today I’ve spent some six hours with my Romanian friends, buying them a caravan. They used to sleep in a car. Northern Europe has seen a lot of Romanian economic refugees, due to the mistreatment if the Roma minority in the country. Romas (also known as the degrading name “gypsies”) are Europe’s most discriminated ethnic minority, especially in eastern Europe.
80% of Romanian Romas are unemployed, 30% can’t read, and their life expectancy is 10 years shorter than other Romanians. They’re trapped in poverty, not getting the social security they need, and then they migrate to other European countries to beg. Here, they lack homes, education and health care. It’s a mess.
I love them so much. Most of them are Pentecostal and we pray and worship together. I see Jesus in them. They are poorer than those I met when I was in Africa two years ago. I’m obliged to help them.
God wants equality. I know that I am destined to share community of goods with several of these people. I’ve identified a few families that could stay here in Sweden and build their lives here. Others have their future in Romania or another country. One woman I got to know here in Uppsala moved to Coventry, where I helped her to get in touch with the Jesus Army.
When I help the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why people are poor, why we are rich and why children have to sleep in cold cars in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, they call me a communist and extremist. But it was my Master, Jesus, who said “blessed are you who are poor… But woe to you who are rich!” (Lk 6:20, 24). I’m following His footsteps. And He walks among, and in, the homeless Romanians on the streets of Europe.
World’s Richest Country Makes Feeding the Poor Illegal
I wish this was a joke. The government of Norway will soon make begging illegal. Many have already pointed out how ironic this is since Norway is in the top five of richest countries in the world (in fact, if you exclude city-states from the list, that have an unfair chance of climbing the top of it, Norway is the richest country in the world). But the madness doesn’t end there. When details in the law proposal were released two days ago, it turned out that the government also wants to criminalize those who help begging people:
The scope of the law, which was originally intended to ban homeless people from begging on the street, has been extended to also criminalise those offering money or other help… Under the law, organised begging would become a crime, punishable with a prison sentence of up to one year. The same punishment would apply to those aiding beggars.
Some of you may recall that a town called Fort Lauderdale in Florida has inforced a similar law, so that 90-year-old Arnold Abbott was arrested when he was handing out food to homeless people through his organization Love Thy Neighbor. I wrote a blog post about this in November last year, reflecting on how strange it is that some reach the conclusion that helping the poor is not helping the poor, while not helping the poor is in fact helping the poor.
Just like my country Sweden, Norway has had many visitors from eastern Europe that are extremely poor and marginalised, who are begging on the streets. Most of them are Romanis, the most discriminated ethnic group in Europe. In Romania, Romanis were slaves up to 1850, and even today 80 % of Romanis in the country are unemployed, 80 % lack water, sanitation or electricity and one in seven of Romani children never attend school. 30 % cannot read or write.
Is Europe Encountering a New Holocaust?
Yesterday’s election to the European Parliament was a shock to many people: the clear winners are the far-right, xenophobic and racist parties. Parties that want to decrease or stop non-Western immigration, and whos representatives say the most insane things about Muslims, Jews, homosexuals and other minorities:
Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of french party Front National that won a stunning 24 % of the french vote, has famously questioned the facts concerning the holocaust and has said that the gas chambers were a minor detail of world war two. And just a few weeks ago he said that the Ebola epidemic might solve the “migration problem” by killing non-Europeans. Jean-Marie led Front National for almost 40 years until he handed over the leadership to his daughter three years ago. She has distanced herself from her father’s antisemitism, instead the party is now extremely islamophobic and wants to stop non-Western immigration to France.
In the United Kingdoms, UKIP won a victory similar to Front National, and while they are not very antisemitic they are very hostile to immigrants. Their leader Nigel Farage has made racist statements concerning Romanians, he only wants to welcome Christians from Syria and not Muslims, and the party is overflowing with hostile stereotyping of non-British nationalities.
The depressing list could go on and on. The Danish People’s Party, that also had a success in the European election yesterday, wants to totally stop Muslim immigration, which obviously is clear religious discrimination. The Austrian FPÖ, which for a long time was lead by neo-Nazi Jörg Haider and which wants to stop immigration to “protect the cultural identity of Austria”, got 20% of the Austrian votes. And then we got the really bad guys: Jobbik from Hungary whose supporters say that the Roma people will die, that wants to register all Jews because they view them as a “national security risk” and that send neo-Nazis to the European Parliament. And of course Golden Dawn, who got 10 % of the Greek votes – their representatives deny the holocaust and quote the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the Greek parliament. And oh, their flag is very similar to the Germanic Nazi swastika.
Reading the Bible with the Poor
My church has a small house group in an area of our town that is experiencing some problems: many are poor, kids hang around in gangs and from time to time there is a riot when the youth destroy people’s cars in protest. We want to reach out to the people in this area and love to invite new people to our group. We especially love to connect with Muslims and share what Jesus has done for us with them.
Two months ago a Romanian family moved nextdoors. I have known this family for years and it ess actually I who helped them get the apartment. They are Roma and has been suffering from discrimination both in Romania and in Sweden. For a long time they were forced to beg on the streets, but the father, Christi, really try to get a job. By the grace of God, he has learned fluent Swedish with hardly any education.
We invited them to our house group. The children have an endless amount of energy, but finally we managed to read the Bible. We read through the Gospel according to Luke, and we had now come to chapter 6. I started to read in Swedish, and Christi continued in Romanian:
Looking at his disciples, Jesus said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. (Luke 6:20-26)
A Church That Kicks Out the Poor
(Thanks to Robert Martin for the video.)
A friend of mine just told me about her home church in a rich European city. Lots of wealthy people are going there, and eventually a poor Romanian beggar showed up asking for money outside the church. My friend and her friends felt compassion for this poor woman, got her some breakfast and invited her in. People were staring. People were whispering. A lady came to them and said that the Romanian woman is scaring her children and that she’s probably involved in trafficking, with criminals taking the money she is begging for. Eventually, a man came and led her out of the church. She wasn’t welcome.
Needless to say, my friend and her friends were chocked. They took this lady to another church. Here, she was radically saved, receiving Christ as her saviour. She was very happy, but even though if she wasn’t kicked out this time, most people didn’t speak to her or tried to build a relationship with her. My friend and her friends were the exception of course, they collected money for her to pay for her son’s surgery back in Romania, but it was hard since many fellow Christians didn’t want to give.
Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? (James 2:2-6)
Before we judge these churches though, examine yourself and your own congregation. John Chrysostom said “When you are weary of praying and do not receive, consider how often you have heard a poor man calling, and have not listened to him.” Are there any poor people in your church? If not, why don’t they come? If there are, are their needs met? What is your attitude to the beggar on the street? Do you give to the one who asks you as Jesus commanded us (Lk 6:30)? Do you have prejudices like in the video above?