By: Grace Killian
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” - Leviticus 19:33,34
When I arrived in Germany at the beginning of March 2016 to help support the work of Methodist Congregations seeking to welcome the refugees in their community, I was struck by the different ways the community offered hospitality. I was touched by the way the communities in eastern Germany welcomed both myself and refugees, whether such encounters were for a few hours or several months. Moreover, I was often struck by the hospitality I received from refugees themselves as an acknowledgement that we were both strangers in a foreign land.
Hospitality is not simply kind or polite - it is transformative and subversive.
I spoke with many people who are working to offer hospitality in different ways – shared meals, language courses, accompaniment to interviews and government offices, advocacy for the ability to attend school, and for a sympathetic presence throughout the Asylum-seeking process. It can seem like a simple sentiment to simply offer hospitality and welcome the refugees; a miniscule response to the overwhelming needs of the tides of people fleeing their countries. Yet, I have been show just how radical hospitality can be.
Hospitality is not simply kind or polite - it is transformative and subversive. Our world seems shrouded in an atmosphere that promotes fear and divineness. In such an atmosphere, welcoming the Other, the one that is different from us, affirms our shared humanity. Hospitality counters the lie that differences are inherently scary. In welcoming those that are different than us into our homes, lives, and communities, we build relationships that reveal new understanding of the world and bring us closer to God.
Welcoming the Other, whether they are from a distant country or around the block, is a powerful statement of reconciliation and vital work for the transformation of the world.
This radical hospitality can be found in the Bible as when God instructed the people of Israel to welcome the stranger in their midst. This a hallmark of God’s commandments, repeated often throughout Scripture, calling us to care for those who are different than ourselves. Indeed, in our modern world, it is not just refugees that we must be welcomed but all those that may be different from us. Welcoming the Other, whether they are from a distant country or around the block, is a powerful statement of reconciliation and vital work for the transformation of the world. Through hospitality, we can build meaningful relationships, which in turn gives way to opportunities to strive together for peace and justice.
Discussion Question: How can you work to offer transformative hospitality to the Other in your community?