Tiistai 25.9.2018
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Herra sanoo: "Peseytykää, puhdistautukaa, tehkää loppu pahoista töistänne, ne ovat aina silmissäni. Lakatkaa tekemästä pahaa." Jes. 1:16

Blog: If only we could see the face of Christ in our neighbors

in English 13.7.2016 14:48 | Päivämies-verkkolehti
I listen to Chopin on Spotify while correcting the first test papers of the semester. I feel safe on my sofa. But when I go online and read news about refugees coming to Finland and other European countries, I feel worried. It is not that the refugees make me worried, but the overall extent of despair makes me feel insecure.
I have recently heard many people comment on the immigration issue. I would like to share two examples. The first is from a discussion where a person told about her acquaintance who had met a group of young immigrants. The encounter had been negative, and this local person had felt offended.

The person who told me about this was worried: what will happen in the future? Will there be even more inappropriate behavior when the proportion of foreigners in our community increases. I did not say anything. I did not speak out what was in my mind. That the incident was not nice, but it was due to the youngsters’ bad behavior, not the fact that they came from a different culture.

My other example comes from social media. Someone on Facebook published a link to a news report on immigration that had aroused a lot of attention worldwide. This neutral link set in motion an exchange of comments that chilled my blood: what if we all thought like that? The arrival of immigrants causes some people to react defensively. “They” are seen as frightening strangers who “bring along diseases and criminality”.

These incidents made me feel a number of emotions: anger, sorrow, anxiety, restlessness, fear… I am angry at the persons who expressed their negative prejudices against immigrants in the discussion. I am afraid that such aggressive expressions in social media may mean that people are unwilling or unable to understand that the newcomers, who come from such great distress, need help. That they face a different, but equally frightening, world here. Frightening because they themselves are seen as a threat and are treated as such. I feel anxiety when I realize that, in order to be a responsible citizen, I should also have contributed to the discussion.

But I did not contribute. In both cases I failed as a Christian: I closed my eyes when I saw someone treated unfairly. In neither case was any named person offended. The people whose presence caused suspicion, mistrust, and even hatred were not aware of it. But when I ask myself what I could have done differently, I know the answer.

But it is good that there are also many texts in social media that remind us of our responsibility to help those in need. We need more neighborly love, the kind of love that is greater than the fear caused by strange and unknown things. If only you and me could see the face of Christ even in the neighbors who seem strange and frightening and may have caused difficult moments for us.

Satu Kaikkonen
Translation: S.-L. Leinonen

The blog post was published in Finnish in online Päivämies on 26 September 2015.

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