Jesus Was A Child Refugee: Jesus and the Central American Child Refugee Crisis

Jesus was a child refugee In the book of Matthew we’re told, “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt.  Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him”(Matthew 2: 13).

Jesus fled to Egypt as a refugee because King Herod was going to kill him.   By God’s design and providence, Jesus’ life was saved because Egypt welcomed the Holy Family as refugees.   I wonder if this experience was in the back of Jesus’ mind when He said, also in Matthew,

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 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 [foreigner/immigrant] 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…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25: 34-36, 40.

Jesus and His blessed Mother know what it is like to run for their lives because someone wants to kill them.  La Virgen knows what it is like to take her only child and flee to another country in order to save his life.  She knows the relief of finding refuge and safety for herself and her family in another nation.  Thank God that our Lord was welcomed as a refugee in Egypt.   If this biblical narrative were to take place in the United States today instead of Egypt 2,000 years ago, would Jesus and His Mother be welcome?  Or would we try to change our laws, after the fact, so that we could deport them?

I believe this is the challenge that Jesus puts before us in Matthew 25.  In Matthew 25 Jesus says that He loves and cares about immigrants and the poor so much that when we love them we are actually loving Him!  He also states that the converse is true:  Jesus identifies so closely with the suffering of immigrants and the poor that He takes it personal when we mistreat them.

St. Augustine put it this way, Jesus is present “in the person of the poor.”  “Christ is needy when a poor person is in need” and “is hungry when the poor are hungry.” “To come to the aid of the poor…is to come to the aid of Christ the Head who is present and in need in the poor.”  I love Mother Theresa’s summation of Matthew 25, too:  “Jesus appears in the distressing disguise of the poor.”

This is America’s challenge today.  Jesus appears to us today in the distressing disguise of thousands of Central American child refugees and their mothers.   Like Jesus and Mary 2,000 years ago, they are fleeing death and violence.  How will we respond to them?  If we welcome them we will be welcoming Jesus; if we reject them and send them back to die we will be doing the same to Jesus. 

Please join me in praying for the Central American child refugees and their families.

Another action step is to get involved with the excellent organization, World Relief:

Here is a petition you can sign, too:

In case you are interested in further reading, here are a couple of good articles:

Robert Chao Romero