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Who do you say I am? 

The people in the refugee camps of Greece and elsewhere are made in the image of God, Christ incarnate living among us, writes Clare McBeath. We are all one in Christ, called to give and receive

 

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I was recently welcomed into someone’s home. It was immaculately clean, tidy  and soft underfoot, the shade providing a welcome relief from the blistering heat of the sunshine outside. I was offered coffee which was freshly brewed while we talked. We spoke of running a hairdressing business, of homes, cars and a daughter at university. We spoke of aspirations for the future for us and particularly for our children.
 
All of this may not sound in the least bit unusual. But the home I was welcomed into was a tent pitched on the edge of a makeshift camp in the grounds of a petrol station, known as “The Gas Station” just a mile or so up the road from Idomeni and the border between Greece and Macedonia. The coffee I drank was brewed over a calor gas stove and served in tiny plastic cups. The hairdressing business was no more, the building in Aleppo, Syria razed to the ground in a bombing raid. The home had been left in a hurry and the car had been sold to pay smugglers for the passage through Turkey to Greece. The daughter at university had had her degree in Persian Literature interrupted and aspirations for the future consisted of the hope that the border would reopen so they could join their daughter’s husband in Germany.
 
As we sat cross legged and listened to Fatima and Waheed’s story the words of Jesus to Peter came to the fore, “Who do you say I am?”

And these words stayed with me for the whole of our time in Greece. From desperate people shoving identity documents through security fences at us hoping we would be able to somehow reunite them with their families elsewhere in Europe, to people following us down the road and asking us to write their names down and to remember them, Jesus’ question “Who do you say I am?” rang out.
 
Because the refugee crisis, as we call it, goes right to the heart of who we are as human beings. Human beings made in the image of God. Peter’s answer to Jesus was clear. You are the Christ. When the people we met, living as refugees in desperate circumstances, ask us who do we say they are, the answer too is clear. They are Christ, Christ incarnate living among us. Christ who is both the host welcoming and breaking break but also the guest coming to us in need and asking for bread.

And we are called to respond likewise as both the host, finding room in our hearts for those who come to us as refugees, but also as the guest receiving of their stories and coffee and of what they teach us of who we are, our identity. For we are all one in Christ.

 

CTBI logoClare McBeath, Co-Principal of Northern Baptist College, was one of the women who took part in a Churches Together in Britain and Ireland women’s delegation to visit Greece, May 2016.

She has produced a series reflections from the trip which are being published in The Baptist Times.

See:
For is not life more than bread? - Christian faith is about truly encountering God and other people, on a human level – as Jesus did
Wanderings in the wilderness - or the Promised Land? With so many refugees trapped in Europe, it's as though the Exodus story is being re-enacted


 
CTBIFurther reflections and information about the trip can be found on focusonrefugees.org.

The website is administered by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and aims to better inform faith communities about issues relating to migration, refugees and asylum in the UK and Ireland, as well as across Europe and the world.

It encourages, educates and provides opportunities for practical and prayerful action along with theological reflection.


 

Baptist Times, 21/07/2016
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