Australia’s asylum seeker/refugee policy: the Bible, discussion and resources

In my view, Australia’s refugee policy should be a concern for Christians. In the following I want to suggest several articles, blog posts, and internet resources for those who are interested in the issues around this important topic for Australia. I will then list some Scriptures that are relevant to the discussion (with the help of Dr Christopher Wright’s book).

Resources from the Salvation Army website 

Australian Churches Refugee Task Force

Paul Tyson’s piece on ETHOS Engage Mail

Articles by Mark Glanville

An article at Public Christianity

An article at Bible Society

An article in CASE Magazine

Australian Refugee Policy for Dummies 1

Australian Refugee Policy for Dummies 2

Australian Refugee Policy for Dummies 3

Australian Refugee Policy for Dummies 4

Australian Refugee Policy for Dummies 5

Asylum Seekers Resource Centre website

(I do not necessarily agree with the opinions expressed by the authors and websites above. But I hope they are useful for our ongoing discussion in Australia.)

I find the following quote from Dr Christopher Wright useful.

What did the Old Testament law have to offer such foreigners? A great deal… The Old Testament speaks of protection from general oppression (Ex. 22:21; Lev. 19:33) and from unfair treatment in court (Ex. 23:9; Deut 10:17-19; 24:17-18); inclusion in Sabbath rest (Ex. 20:9—11; 23:12; Deut. 5:12-15) and inclusion in worship and cov­enant ceremonies of Passover (Ex. 12:45-49), the annual festivals (Deut. 16), the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29), and covenant renewal ceremonies (Deut. 29:10-13; 31:12); the economic benefit of the triennial tithes (Deut. 1-1:28-29; 26:12-13) and access to agricultural produce (gleaning rights) (Lev. 19:9- 10; Deut. 24:19-22); and equality before the law with native born (Lev. 19:34).

Source: Christopher Wright, The God I Don’t Understand (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), pages 103-4.

See also the similarity between the second greatest commandment (as Jesus affirms) and the instruction to look after foreigners (both found in the same chapter in Leviticus).

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the LORD. (Lev 19:18)

The foreigners residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God. (Lev 19:34)

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Australia’s asylum seeker policy and what the Bible says

In an article posted by Jane Hodge at Champions of Change, Asylum Seekers Resource Centre, Australia (on 13th April 2013), Australia’s intake asylum seekers is not high at all, compared with other countries. I haven’t checked the data myself, but what the article says is worth noting. Here is an excerpt.

“So what does this tell us about Australia’s hysteria around receiving 3% of the industrialized worlds asylum applications? (3% take note, is the amount of applications lodged, not the amount of visas granted). What this tells us is that other industrialised countries, and many more poor developing countries, take many more asylum seekers than we do in Australia, and that they deal with the situation much better. Take Sweden, for example, who accepts nearly 3 times the number of asylum seekers per year than we do in Australia. In Sweden asylum seekers are welcomed, are assigned their own case worker and lawyer, are allowed freedom of movement and work rights, are allowed to live with friends or family, and are provided financial support and a housing allowance, all whilst their claims are processed in a maximum of 3 months. Sweden, it seems recognizes asylum seekers for what they are; everyday humans like you and I fleeing persecution.” (Click here to see the full article.)

Dr Christopher Wright says that the Old Testament Law says a lot about caring for foreigners.

“What did the Old Testament law have to offer such foreigners? A great deal… The Old Testament speaks of protection from general oppression (Ex. 22:21; Lev. 19:33) and from unfair treatment in court (Ex. 23:9; Deut 10:17-19; 24:17-18); inclusion in Sabbath rest (Ex. 20:9—11; 23:12; Deut. 5:12-15) and inclusion in worship and cov­enant ceremonies of Passover (Ex. 12:45-49), the annual festivals (Deut. 16), the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29), and covenant renewal ceremonies (Deut. 29:10-13; 31:12); the economic benefit of the triennial tithes (Deut. 1-1:28-29; 26:12-13) and access to agricultural produce (gleaning rights) (Lev. 19:9- 10; Deut. 24:19-22); and equality before the law with native born (Lev. 19:34).”

Source: Christopher Wright, The God I Don’t Understand (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), pages 103-4.

See also the similarity between the second greatest commandment (as Jesus affirms) and the instruction to look after foreigners (both found in the same chapter in Leviticus).

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. (Lev 19:18)

The foreigners residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God. (Lev 19:34)

I hope these Scriptures can help us formulate our view on asylum seekers policy in Australia.

(A related post on Australia’s refugee policy and resources for discussion can be found here.)