My rating: 3 of 5 stars
According to the U.N. Refugee Agency website, around the world there are some 40 million internally displaced people, 25.4 million refugees, and 3.1 million asylum seekers. Those are staggering numbers, making the head swim with incredulous vertigo! How should Christians think of refugees, and what are we to do? On top of this, what are the ways to treat and respond to immigrants? Kent Annan, director of humanitarian and disaster leadership at Wheaton College’s Humanitarian Disaster Institute, cofounder of Haiti Partners, and author, makes a try at helping North American Christians navigate this condition in his new 144 page paperback "You Welcomed Me: Loving Refugees and Immigrants Because God First Loved Us". As the author declares, "In this book, I hope to inspire you with stories of refugees and immigrants and those who are involved with them. I hope to inform you with research, sacred text, and experiences. I hope for nothing less than seeing our - and other people's - lives changed along the way" (9).
Annan takes up the topic with zest from the get-go as he races through the subject, drawing in a plethora of illustrative stories from his own experience, and those he has gleaned from other sources. The author weaves in Scripture passages, many of which have historically been understood to refer to God's people caring for God's people, and universalizes them to incorporate all peoples as our brothers and sisters needing our concern. Further, the book is unburdened by interrupting footnotes or endnote references, so that it appears the author is simply rattling numbers and statistics off the top of his head. It's not until one gets to the notes after the appendix that you realize he's been drawing from other articles, op-eds and authors.
Where the book's strength lies is on three levels. It addresses the fears and rhetoric that fuels intense repulsion. Then it exposes the ways immigrants and refugees get dehumanized by us and in our perceptions. Thirdly, "You Welcomed Me" gives readers tangible suggestions on how to engage on behalf of the foreign-born (locally, nationally, and internationally). The author is even willing to challenge some of the "more-socially-just-than-thou" crowd: "Urbanites with lots of diversity around them probably do well to confess that they can be condescending to others who aren't in cities or churches as diverse as their own" (35).
How we interact with, and on behalf of, immigrants and refugees is an important subject. And it is a fiercely politicized issue. I appreciate Annan taking this topic on (something that is very personal to himself) and presenting his thoughts. Though I have some reservations toward the book, nevertheless it is helpful for slowing people down, shift their gears, and think through ways we can fairly and judiciously benefit displaced people. I circumspectly recommend the book.
My gratitude goes out to IVP for sending me the book at my request. I read this copy, marked it up, highlighted it, and then used it for this review. All of the comments are my honest opinion and freely given.
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