You Shall Love the Stranger as Yourself
Well researched resource which addresses the complex political, legal, and humanitarian challenges raised by asylum-seekers and refugees from a Biblical perspective
You Shall Love the Stranger as Yourself: The Bible, Refugees and Asylum
By Fleur Houston
Reviewed by Rosemary Kidd
You Shall Love the Stranger as Yourself could not have been more timely. The Revd Fleur Houston provides a resource which speaks into one of the most pressing realities of our era.
She writes out of her initial pastoral encounters with asylum seekers, and her continued ministry of advocacy for people whose distress arises when their personal stories of horror and suffering are not properly heard.
In many instances, folk seeking sanctuary in the UK arrive too traumatised to talk to officials. There are many individual stories illustrating the text.
The first three chapters lay out the post-war legacy of the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the subsequent 1953 European Convention on Human Rights, exploring how these refugee protections have become dated over time, and how the UK asylum process has been modified by successive governments. The section is extremely well researched and written.
The political background is followed by a succinct summary of the asylum process, explaining clearly why it is that many people get trapped by the lack of efficient, transparent justice, and how it is that so many are held in detention centres for administrative purposes, sometimes for years, without recourse to law.
This is followed by an extensive and meticulous genealogy of the theme of the stranger, as found in scripture, from the Pentateuch to the Letter to the Hebrews.
The thematic focus is a real gift, although some Christian readers will find the chapter on Jesus’ ministry familiar territory. T
he overall message of God’s care for the poorest and most destitute people, however, is powerfully present throughout.
The author explains how the theme of hospitality for the stranger is profoundly scriptural and further, that today’s strangers who have suffered on their exilic journey have much to tell us about our need to recognise that we too are called to a journeying faith, to practical action in the face of suffering, and that they are our guests.
The Revd Dr Rosemary Kidd, a retired Baptist minister, is member of the national Churches Refugee Network Steering Group