The Nativity scene is said to be empty without Jews, Arabs, Africans, and the displaced people. So, here’s what that means for your holiday.
According to authors of the 10th annual Global Peace Index, there are now just 10 countries which can be considered completely free from conflict—Botswana, Chile, Costa Rica, Japan, Mauritius, Panama, Qatar, Switzerland, Uruguay and Vietnam. Indeed, the world today is becoming a more dangerous place.
Africa, to a greater extent than any other continent, is afflicted by war. It has been marred by more than 20 major civil wars since 1960. Rwanda, Somalia, Angola, Sudan, Liberia, and Burundi are among those countries that have recently suffered serious armed conflict.
The Marawi Crisis in the Philippines which is considered the most significant terror event to have struck Southeast Asia in the past 15 years left Marawi in ruins because of the ground and aerial bombardment. The conflict has also displaced nearly 360,000 people from Marawi City and surrounding areas.
Globally, armed conflicts result in unprecedented waves of population displacement, both within and across borders with direct consequences like deaths, diseases, stress, migration and environmental destruction; indirect socio-economic disruption in the form of institutional, infrastructural and human capital destruction; and opportunity costs like famine due to disruption of agriculture as well as poverty due to disruption of commerce and education.
So, this Christmas, while you snuggle up and relax, think of the refugees. They are the ones out there in the cold, damp alleys, some may huddle in ditches, in makeshifts tents or under the bridges. They are those whose homes are in a distant memory in a faraway land. Some of them are children with no food, money or knowledge of where to go.
Remember that political unrest, forced migration, oppression, and injustice was the context into which Jesus was born. Bring the Christmas story to life by inviting displaced people into our homes and pointing people of all nations to Jesus’ love and sacrifice. The power of proximity, as Jesus himself demonstrated, cannot be underestimated. In the Gospel of Luke, we hear these words from Christ:
When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. – Luke 14:12–14
Truly, there is absolutely no better time than Christmas to show others— especially those in pain— that the table of God is big enough for everyone, including them!
“If you find that not many of the things you asked for have come, and not perhaps quite so many as sometimes, remember that this Christmas all over the world there are a terrible number of poor and starving people.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, Letters from Father Christmas