Should Christian countries help Christians above others?

Syrian refugees stand near their tent at Zaatari camp near the Syrian border, near Mafraq, Jordan

If the UK is a Christian country, should it seek to help Christians first?

That is what Conservative back bench MP for Aldershot Gerald Howarth seems to think.

In response to Theresa May’s decision this week to let in refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict, he was quoted on today as saying that: “As a Christian country, we should prioritise Christians who are being persecuted in Syria.

“I appreciate the home secretary’s measured response to this dreadful tragedy, for which the United Kingdom has absolutely no responsibility whatsoever,” he said, “but may I invite her to consider seeing it in the context of the overall impact of migration to this country in recent years?”

This echoed a similar proposal from Nigel Farage in late December last year, where he talked about the fact that while Muslims, be they Sunni or Shia, are the majority in many countries local to Syria, Christians are not.

“It’s bad enough for Sunni and Shia,” said Mr Farage, speaking on the Jeremy Vine show. “At least there are neighbouring countries that will take them,” he said.

“Where on Earth are the Christians going to go? Christians are now a seriously persecuted minority.”

Theresa May has said refugees would be allowed into the UK on the basis of “vulnerability” and not religion. And ultimately, that is far closer to what the Christian position should be.

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While neither politician spoke about choosing only Christians and leaving Muslims behind, the spirit of their statements were clear. We should be working first, to help people like us. The UK, as a Christian country, should be helping other Christians.

While it’s true that the UK should be helping Christians around the world, Jesus said in Matthew 5:47: “And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”

It’s easy to get motivated to help those like us. You just imagine yourself in their situation, and you think “I wouldn’t want that” and then you get to work.

But as former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams pointed out while speaking at St James’s Church Piccadilly recently, the reality of what it is to be spiritual is to have the imagination to look at a stranger, someone unlike you, and know that “I am not going to be fully human without this person”.

Christianity, he said, is about looking at someone in need and thinking “their need is my need, their poverty is my poverty”.

If we are a Christian country, we should not be worrying as much about who we help as we worry about how many people we can help, and how we help them.

A Christian country should not be as concerned about the potential impact of new immigration if it means we can be of aid to those in desperate need.

The faith of a Christian country should lead them to believe that even if providing that aid costs them resources, perhaps even a great deal of resources, they have the faith that there is a God who responds when he sees us acting out of true generosity.

If the Church only moves to help their own, what hope does it offer to the world?

How is that anything like Jesus?

Did he only offer healing and miracles to people who already wanted to follow him?

Christians need to reach out and serve everyone they can, and Christian countries – such as they exist – even more so.