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Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Statement of the Issue

Wars, social unrest, unemployment and poverty have resulted in an increase in the movement of people across borders, many of whom become refugees and asylum seekers. Poverty, unemployment, gender inequality, inadequate education and competition for scarce and meagre resources, often result in increased tension between locals and foreigners who are refugees and asylum seekers. This can culminate in xenophobic attitudes and violence.

Statement of the Position

The Salvation Army believes that all people are made in the image of God and therefore have equal worth and dignity.

The Salvation Army recognises that the struggle for social justice must apply equally to South Africans and foreigners who are refugees and asylum seekers. We acknowledge our responsibility to promote the just and fair treatment of all people.

The Salvation Army, in co-operation with other agencies, supports both international and local efforts through the promotion of peace, tolerance, understanding and respect for human life and dignity, to eliminate persecution and displacement.

The Salvation Army rejects xenophobia (attitudes of hatred or contempt towards foreigners), and condemns the violence that often accompanies xenophobic attitudes.

The Salvation Army respects the right of the South African government to take reasonable measures to control refugees and asylum seekers. Despite these measures, many displaced people are being exploited.

The delay in processing claims of asylum seekers and the resulting uncertainty, can have long-term detrimental effects on their holistic wellbeing. In some cases, delays may result in unlawful behaviour which is detrimental to society as a whole.

Biblical Considerations

We believe that all people are created equal and in God’s image (Gen 1:27).

The Salvation Army believes that individuals and nations should respond in a compassionate and humane manner to the plight of displaced persons seeking asylum.  God’s loving concern for, and welcome of strangers and foreigners, is clearly evident in both the Old and New Testaments (Exodus 23:9, Leviticus 19:9-10, Numbers 35:15, Psalm 146, Matthew 22:34-40, Matthew 25:31-46, Luke 10:30-37, Hebrews 13:1-3).

We are called to love our neighbour as ourselves (Matt 22:39). As Christians, we are all part of the body of Christ and if ‘one member suffers, all suffer together with it’ (1 Cor 12:26a ESV).

Foreigners should be treated with love, grace and justice (Exo 22:21; Num 15:15-16; Deut 1:16; Zec 7:9-10) and in the same way as a native of the land (Lev 19:33-34).  They should receive assistance from locals and be allowed to earn an honest living (Lev 23:22; Deut 26:12-13; Eze 47:21-22).

Scripture is also clear about the consequences of our treatment of foreigners:

  • Those who oppress foreigners or treat them harshly can come under judgment (Deut 27:19; Mal 3:5)
  • God’s favour will be on those who treat foreigners with kindness (Jer 7:5-7)
  • Jesus Himself will pronounce judgment depending on our attitude towards foreigners (Matt 25:34-46)

Practical Responses

The Salvation Army believes that the claims of asylum seekers should be processed expeditiously.

The Salvation Army believes that refugees should be offered assistance in order for them to become contributing members of society.

The Salvation Army believes that the family unit is the fundamental building block of society and that in the processing of asylum seekers, priority should be given to maintaining the integrity of the family unit. Special protection and assistance should be given to children. Where detained, families with children should be given priority and released in the shortest possible time.

The Salvation Army calls on all government departments and officials to provide good service and fair and decent treatment to all inhabitants of the country, whether they are citizens, visitors, workers or foreigners.

The Salvation Army condemns the actions of those who wish to gain from the plight of displaced persons.

The Salvation Army calls on all Salvationists to:

  • Uphold the biblical values of hospitality towards strangers – welcoming all who live among us, whatever their background, nationality or creed,
  • Examine our own attitudes towards foreigners and strangers,
  • Use our influence in promoting the fair and just treatment of foreigners and strangers,
  • Condemn the evil of xenophobia,
  • Pray for a change in attitude in those who perpetrate violence,
  • Promote and display in our lives the Christian values of love, justice and peace.

Deuteronomy 1:16.

The Bible often describes God himself as a “Refuge”, (Deuteronomy 33:27, Ruth 2:12, 2 Samuel 22:3,31, Psalm 5:11, Psalm 16:1, Psalm 17:7, Psalm31:2,4, Psalm 34:8, Psalm 36:7, Psalm 46:1, Psalm 62:8, Psalm 91:2, Psalm 144:2, Nahum 1:7).