Helping the Displaced Find a Home

Refugees, the Church, & a Missional Opportunity

Jenny Yang

My father was a young boy at the start of the Korean War in 1950. When he was just a few years old, he remembers hearing a knock at the front door of his home in South Korea. The Communist forces, targeting media personnel, were looking for my grandfather, a young newspaper reporter.

My grandfather was pulled out of his home, never to be seen by my dad again. A few years after my grandfather disappeared, my grandmother became gravely ill and passed away, leaving my dad orphaned at the age of 8. 

My dad went to live with his extended family, but as an orphan, he didn’t feel a sense of home. He ran newspaper routes to earn enough money for school and food, wearing worn down shoes, and riding his bicycle around the community. He learned English from American missionaries who had set up a church in his neighborhood and began dreaming of immigrating to the United States. 

My dad became very good at fixing cars. After he won a national car repair competition, one of the judges asked my dad to join his family immigrating to the U.S. The Ford Motor Co. eventually sponsored him to come to the U.S. He settled in the Philadelphia area, where my brother and I were born and raised. 

When I was growing up, my father would often recount to me the significant trauma and loss of living through war. He is well-acquainted with its devastating effects and the longing to find greater opportunity elsewhere. There are millions of people like him around the world who are experiencing horrible conflict that has led to the death of family members and a desperation to find safety elsewhere. 

The World’s Worst Displacement Crisis

We are living through the world’s worst displacement crisis in recorded history.1https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/06/18/graphic-the-worlds-refugee-crisis-is-the-worst-in-recorded-history/ An estimated 82 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide.2https://www.unrefugees.org/refugee-facts/statistics/ The conflict in Syria has raged on unabated for over nine years now and produced the greatest number of refugees. And in South Sudan, the youngest country in the world, families continue to face stinging poverty and political instability. Eighty-six percent of these displaced individuals are hosted in developing countries, which means countries already grappling with poverty are now welcoming the vast majority of refugees.3https://www.unhcr.org/refugee-statistics/ 

Most recently, the U.S. has seen an influx of refugees in light of our withdrawal from Afghanistan. Many of us were stirred in August of 2021 by the images and videos of desperate Afghans trying to flee their country as the Taliban took over. I started receiving calls from many people who were desperate to leave Afghanistan and had hopes of being evacuated by the U.S. government. Many of these individuals had fought alongside U.S. troops, risking life and limb to help the U.S. in our mission. And while the majority of these individuals were left behind, those who were able to be evacuated—around 60,000—are being resettled in communities throughout the U.S.4https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/13/politics/afghan-refugee-resettlement-united-states/index.html 

The arrival of thousands of Afghans presents an incredible opportunity for the church to welcome and serve them. Afghans and other refugees are all made in the image of God and are deserving of dignity and respect. They carry the weight of the trauma of war, but with a resilient hope that the future will be better for them and their families. Many have never met a Christian before or walked into a church building. The support of local communities and churches can be critical in helping our newest neighbors flourish as they work through trauma, loss, and pain in order to rebuild their lives from practically nothing.

The Biblical Story of Migration

What we’re witnessing today in the movement of people is not new. God often uses people’s migration to accomplish his missional purposes on Earth—and we see this throughout the Bible.

Abraham is perhaps the earliest example of an immigrant in Scripture. He was called by God to leave his home and go to another land, not knowing where he was going or what to expect (Gen. 12:1). But he experienced God’s faithfulness when he moved. Joseph was a victim of human trafficking, sold into slavery by his brothers and transported across different nations (Gen. 37:28). And Ruth fled famine with Naomi and was a migrant worker when Boaz fell in love with her (Ruth). 

Ger, the Hebrew word closest to “immigrant” in English, appears 92 times in the Old Testament alone. God is clear about how the immigrant is to be treated. Leviticus 19:33-34 (NIV) tell us: “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” 

In addition to immigrants, God often reminded the nation of Israel to take care of other vulnerable populations including widows, orphans, and the poor, since these groups didn’t have families or resources to support them. In doing so, Israel was a reflection of the character of God: “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing” (Deut. 10:18).

In the New Testament, we see that the greatest immigrant of all in Scripture is Jesus himself. His family had to flee persecution when he was a newborn because King Herod issued an edict that all Jewish babies under the age of 2 were to be killed. His parents escaped into Egypt as refugees in order to survive (Matt. 2:14). Furthermore, the persecution of the early church meant people were forced to flee from location to location—and this was the fuel that led to the spreading of the gospel (Acts 8:4).

Philoxenia, one of the words used for hospitality in the New Testament, literally breaks down to mean love (“philo-”) of stranger (“-xenia), which is the opposite of xenophobia. Hebrews 13:2 even states that some have “entertained angels without knowing it” when they showed hospitality to the stranger. And Jesus reminds us in Matthew 25 that when we look after the stranger, especially among believers, we are looking after Jesus himself.

A Missional Opportunity

Christians are well aware that Jesus commands us to “make disciples of every nation” (Matt. 28:19). Today, we merely have to walk across the street to find people from all over the world who may not have heard the good news. By loving our immigrant neighbors through word and deed, we have the opportunity to fulfill the Great Commission and to carry out the second greatest commandment—to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:37–40).

Acts 17:26-27 reminds us that migration is not an accident. God uses all manner of things, including displacement, to draw people to himself. Paul stated it this way: “From one man [God] made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him” (Acts 17:26-27). If we believe this to be true, we will see the incredible opportunity that lies before us.

The church leading in moments of humanitarian crises, with compassion, humility, and love, can change the world. For a world that is broken and hurting, the hard work of building inclusive and welcoming communities begins with us. If there should be a people who step up to give and serve sacrificially, it should be the church. And as we do, we have the privilege of inviting our neighbors to find an everlasting home in Christ. 

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24