Jesus was ‘a migrant child’, bishops stress in Christmas message

More fact-checking needed in our ‘post-truth society’, says religious minister

Migrants stranded at the Greek port of Chios. “Our fullest identity is found in our being children of God, an identity we share with everyone on this planet.” Photograph: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Migrants stranded at the Greek port of Chios. “Our fullest identity is found in our being children of God, an identity we share with everyone on this planet.” Photograph: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

 

Treating refugees as a lower class of human life of is dangerous and deluded, the leaders of the Ireland’s largest churches have said.

Jesus Christ became, for a time, a migrant child. He and his family fled to a foreign country because their lives were at risk,” Catholic primate Archbishop Eamon Martin and Church of Ireland primate Archbishop Richard Clarke said in a joint message.

The “plight of so many hundreds of thousands of displaced people in the world today gives us all cause for thought. If our concern with our own identity allows us to think of others as less worthy of God’s love or less in his heart of love than are we, then we are both deluded and dangerous”, they said.

At the end of this year the world “seems a very different place than it did at this time last year. People speak of a profound and pervasive sense of uncertainty and insecurity all around us.

“Many are now finding themselves asking questions about their identity in a new and bewildered way.”

From a Christian perspective “our fullest identity is found in our being children of God, an identity we share with everyone on this planet”, they said.

In his Christmas message, Presbyterian Moderator Rev Dr Frank Sellar recalled how during the recent US presidential election “ voters were faced with claims and counterclaims, as feelings were presented as facts that went beyond truth in our post-truth society”.

Fact-checking had “become a sad, but necessary development in public life”.

“The apostle Peter had no need of ‘fact-checking’ when he wrote in his second Letter, ‘We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty’ (2 Peter 1:16). He was a literal witness,” Rev Dr Sellar said.

Assault on Aleppo

President of the Methodist Church in Ireland Rev Bill Mullally spoke in his Christmas message about slogans of “Peace on earth” and “Goodwill to all” being spoken in a world where “we have seen the destruction of Aleppo, the killing of the innocents at Nice in the later summer and now, within days of the celebration of the birth of ‘The Prince of Peace’, we have witnessed the murder of a Russian diplomat in Turkey as well as a senseless killing of shoppers at a German Christmas market”.

While many sit down at tables groaning under the weight of food, others will be caught up in famine abroad or be looking to a food bank for their Christmas dinner, he said.

In a topical reference to the “ash for cash” controversy in Northern Ireland, he added some would be making money from heating empty sheds while others endured the cold because they did not have the money to heat their homes.

“Why do we go through this season wishing people a happy Christmas while all the while we are unwilling to create the type of kingdom which Jesus came into the world to establish through his followers?” he asked.

Healing our suffering world

Shaykh Umar Al-Qadri, imam at the Islamic Centre Ireland in Blanchardstown west Dublin, wished everyone “a peaceful Christmas holiday season commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ”.

Noting that it coincided “with the Mawlid, which commemorates the birth of the Prophet Muhammad”, he hoped “that the New Year may bring healing and peace to our suffering world”.

Observing that “Islam and Christianity both stand for peace, harmony and human development”, he said “the dream of global peace will never come true unless followers of both Islam and Christianity, which together make up well over half of the world’s population, come forward in a spirit of co-operation, respect and goodwill to play their due role to promote peaceful coexistence”.