In the recent years, the international community and individual nations have enhanced their efforts in focusing on the issue of international migration. Initially, international movements would be triggered by natural calamities, such as hunger, earthquakes, and wars. However, the steady inflow of immigrants in the current times is being influenced by the prospects of enhanced economic, political, and social conditions that have attracted a massive attention from different affected nations. International immigration is a complex topic. Nearly all nations of the world are affected by this issue. Virtually, at least every nation has become a country of destination for the immigrants and foreigners. There are different categories of immigrants. For instance, there are migrant employees or workers, migrants admitted for family reunifications, students, and the illegal immigrants without documentation. Consequently, different state policies affect immigration for different nations with regards to the categorization of the migrant. This paper seeks to find out the two major religions’ teachings, Christianity and Islam, on the treatment of immigration or foreigners. The major source of the discussion will be the Bible and the Quran, which are the Holy books of instruction for the two religions respectively.
History of Migration
The current migration being witnessed in the world is not a new phenomenon (Castles et al., 2005). The question of migration has been in existence within the historical context. The earliest man on earth depended on hunting and gathering, which made him wonder from one place to another in search of nourishment, an aspect that has continued even after people establishing permanent residences. In as much as migration started a long time ago, no sociobiological elucidation has been provided. Certain groups of people have been lucky to find themselves in comfortable places by nature while others have found themselves in naturally harsh places that have been hit by natural calamities, thereby fleeing to settle in better places. Nevertheless, despite all the reasons that make people move from one place to another, all persons have a right to be treated equally and fairly. Mistreatment of the immigrants or foreigners can have a negative effect on the host nations because it hampers the individuals from utilizing their full talents and energy in their production capabilities that benefit the host community. Nations need to play their prerogative role of protecting the minority groups as well as the rights and interests of the immigrants through parameters set by the international standards and norms (Benhabib, 2004). On the other hand, immigrants, just as local citizens, need to abide by the laws and obligations that have been set by the receiving state. There are, however, different kinds of factors among people that affect treatment of immigrants like religion, customary laws, and races among others. This discussion shall focus on the Christianity and Islamic teachings on the treatment of immigrants or foreigners.
Christianity Teaching on Immigrants
The Christian concept of migration is not new. According to the Christian Holy Book, the Bible, several historical migrations are witnessed. For instance, the Israelites’ migration to Egypt due to drought, found in the book of Exodus, where they later returned to Israel through the guidance of God. One thing to note in this story was that they were made slaves in Egypt. Other migration stories touch on people like Abraham, Jacob, Lot, and Paul among others. Most of these people moved because of different situations. Even Jesus faced the danger of being killed after his birth, and his parents sneaked and migrated with him to Egypt. This indicates that the concept of migration and immigration is not new to Christians.
Several issues have sprung out of the immigration topic in the recent past. Therefore, the Biblical position on immigration and how Christians ought to respond and treat immigrants and foreigners is clear. In January 2006, in the United States, Gallup poll indicated that the immigration reform was among the bottom ranked issues that affect the Americans. Other issues were war in Iraq, the economy, and healthcare (Saad, 2006). Due to several issues and rallies in April the same year, the subject became the second most topic worrying the United States. Most of the Americans are worried about controlling the inflows of immigrants along the borders than developing a clear strategy for dealing with the foreigners. At the moment, there are approximately more than 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. The worry of the American people with regards to immigrants emanates from the low cost of labor supply as well as the threat of terrorists’ infiltration.
As America addresses the issue of immigration, there have been mixed reactions from the Christian community and the issues of racism (Emerson & Smith 2000). For instance, in the Dallas Morning News edition on April 28, 2006, there was a discussion between conservative and liberal Christian leaders on quoted Bible verses, but they were unable to reach a common agreement on what Jesus would do to more than 12 million immigrants in the nation. However, there are three main teachings or positions that Christians have taken regarding the treatment of immigrants.
The first position insists on enhancing the need to honor God by obeying his laws and commandments with a focus on the government’s responsibility to secure all its people. The second position reflects people or citizens’ responsibility to care and cater for the needy and focus on the alien as well as strangers. Thirdly, Christians hold that it is wise for the church to avoid issues, such as political and economic dynamics. This position was summarized by Dr. Richard, who stated that “As a church, we have a right to expect the nation to fulfill its divinely ordained mandate to punish those who break the law and reward those who do not’’. (Rom 13). Christians have a divine mandate to act with redemption and compassion to those who are in need.
Christians argue that since everyone is made in the image and likeness of God, nations should not put any restrictions on citizens to move in and out of countries at their will. According to the Bible teachings in Colossians 3:11, all people in the world are equal. From the script, Christians hold to the fact that there should be no distinctions among people, such as citizens and non-citizens. Therefore, immigrants are equal to other people and should be treated as one.
However, in as much there is a simple viewpoint among Christians in welcoming people to settle in different places anytime, the Bible also holds on the need of national sovereignty as a way in which God works in the fallen world. In the book of I Timothy 2:1-2, Christians are asked to pray for government officials not to be doomed but to develop a society where people can follow God and share Christ in a secure and peaceful environment. There are three significant reasons why the government ought to control the inflow of immigrants across the borders in order to control citizenship.
National Security: It is natural that nations have enemies who do not dwell in their midst. According to Deuteronomy 31:12-13, all the foreigners that dwelt among the children of Israel were obligated to enter into a covenant to obey God. The ones who disobeyed God’s leadership would not be allowed to dwell in the land. In the same way, all nations, especially the United States, are concerned about external enemies and they should be prevented from attacking them. A nation’s role is, therefore, to protect the borders by being strict to all immigrants.
Economic Prosperity: Limited resources in a given nation can cause it to restrain immigration to reserve the resources for the existing citizens. In the same manner, a nation can also import labor from outside to carry out low paid jobs. The Bible supports the notion of everyone getting rewards for his/her labor. This means that immigration for labor should be balanced according to Christians. If there need be, it is okay to have immigrants perform some labors, but this should not lead to exploitation. Positive utilization of the immigrants can bring about positive changes within the host nation (Siegel, 2011)
Cultural Integrity: Some people or nations can provide restrictions for immigrants to preserve their culture and history. In the same way, the Bible states that God commanded the children of Israel to worship no other God but Him, the God of Abraham. In the book of Exodus 12: 43-49, foreigners were not allowed to take part in Passovers unless their houses were circumcised and they had entered a covenant with God. This means that Christians should not lock out immigrants if they obey the rules of the land and conform to the requirements. Nations like the United States are known to have thrived from the rich composition of immigrants that has led it to become the world superpower.
In addressing the issue of law and order with regards to the treatment of immigrants, Christianity has had conflicting interpretations concerning respecting the law and showing compassion to the immigrants. In Romans chapter 13, the Bile talks about subjecting to the authorities (5). All Christians are required to obey the authorities to have a clear conscience and avoid punishment. Therefore, Christians are required to submit to the relevant existing authorities as it is a way of honoring God. This should be the case when dealing with immigrants; law and order should be given priority. Whether the immigrants finds it comfortable or not, dealing with them should be according to the laid down procedures. Anything illegal should not be condoned by Christians just for the sake of compassion.
Several arguments arise from the issue of compassionate for Christians when dealing with immigrants. Christians find conflicting interests between showing compassion to the needy or immigrants on one hand, and implementing legal policies created by the authorities on the other hand. This is brought about by the Biblical quote in Deuteronomy 10: 18-19 that says, “He…. shows love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.” This passage has an implication on how Christians should treat foreigners. Therefore, Christians are required to treat immigrants fairly and should take the responsibility of meeting their needs. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan in the book of Mathew 25, Jesus teaches about doing good to others even if they are not from your community, tribe, or nation. Jesus restarted by saying that for the least that you do unto your brothers, you do it unto me. Christians, therefore, need to treat everyone with love despite the position on immigration policies. The Christians’ primary role is to love and minister to them at any place.
Islamic Teachings on Immigrants
According to the Islamic faith, the term migration is referred to as hijra and the active participle of the word is muhajir. Furthermore, ghubra and gharib are also Islamic terms, which mean being in a foreign place either permanently and temporarily respectively. The strangers are considered blind in Islam even if they have physical eyes, an aspect that suggests they need help and guidance. Islam recognizes tolerance among everyone (Asani, 2003). According to the Qur’an, like the Bible, there are several immigration experiences by several prophets, for instance, Adam, Abraham, Lot, Jonah, Jacob, and Moses. Adam was the first person to be an immigrant on earth from heaven. This implies that Islam considers all people foreigners here on earth. This was always evident by the saying of the prophets who always likened themselves as travelers who were on a short mission under a tree shade and bound to continue their journey.
Islam considers migration as normal and can occur as a result of several reasons like economic and religious factors, and other people would just want to move to new areas. The Quran also mentions the oppressed and the weak on earth who are vulnerable to moving from the areas of oppression to other places. According to verse (4:19), the Quran states that “was the earth of God not large enough for you to take flight for asylum.” This implies that those who have the ability should take care of the immigrants as the land belongs unto God. This means that the world and authorities should take care of the immigrants, and therefore, allow them to gain entry in search for peace. Therefore, according to the Islamic religion, the earth is owned by God. In as much as there are several borders and demarcations to divide people and restrict their movement in these borders, we can all be in any place any time because no one owns the land apart from God.
Currently, there are Muslims in almost every part of the world. However, unlike the olden times, today’s Muslims are migrating due to economic reasons. In the same way, there are several Islamic nations that receive immigrants from different parts of the globe. According to the history of Islam, there are three main journeys of migration that are famous in the early days. These migrations were however religious. The first migration was from the city of Mecca where Prophet Muhammad and his followers were being persecuted for their new found religion. They migrated to different places because of safety in places like the city of Taif and other places. The second major migration in the history of Islam was when new converts of the Muslim religion faced severe persecution to discourage other people from joining them. This made the prophet to advise his converts to move to other places, majorly Abyssinia. The last of the biggest migration in the history of Islam occurred in the city of Mecca to Median, which was approximately 280 miles away (4). The Muslims, who left Mecca, were definitely in need because they left all their possessions behind. However, there were also some Muslims in Medina. This made the ones from Mecca to be called Muhajirum. There was a need for these two groups to co-exist, and thus, the prophet declared the spirit of brotherhood among these two groups. This historical aspect of brotherhood is called mu’kh’t and it resulted in two main categories of Muslims at that time, the muhajirums and the ansar, meaning the immigrants and the helpers respectively. These two groups were also declared brothers and sisters by the prophet.
This concept of brotherhood resulted in several benefits for the groups like prosperity and solidarity. It also strengthened them both materially and spiritually. With reference to the current concept of immigrants and foreigners, Muslims treat immigrants with care by providing them the two most basic needs, food and shelter. Through the teachings of the prophet, the ansar in Islam are able to share what they have with the immigrants. This brotherhood concept in Islam is also encouraged not by force but by conviction.
Currently, there are numerous immigrations that are being witnessed in the world. The America, for instance, is a nation of immigrants. However, without addressing the immigrants’ needs, Islam does not consider it right. In nations like the US, in as much as there are open doors to immigrants, there are several cases of racism and exploitation. Although slavery was done away with, immigrants in most cases work for low wages and are exploited. They end up finding it difficult to stabilize their lives even after the migration lives. Islam insists on brotherhood and has been witnessed in different world context (Wiktorowicz, 2001)
The Islam teachings for immigrants encourage a warm and good environment for the foreigners for the purpose of integrating them into the nation to be part of the normal citizens as it was in the city of Medina. The Islam teaching also insists on creating a strong bond between the local citizens and immigrants in all capacities to enjoy full benefits of the potent of the locals and foreigners. This is significant in enhancing productivity, thereby resulting in a positive and strong economy as well as social harmony. In the case of the United States, despite the discrimination against slaves, the results of their efforts in building the nation are evident. Some immigrants are educated but they have no opportunities to apply their knowledge in their home countries (Mattoo, Neagu & Özden, 2008). If correctly utilized, immigrants can have a positive influence on the host nations.
The teaching and practice of a Prophet in relation to immigrants in Islam provide the foundation in which modern day Muslims should approach the concept of immigrants or foreigners. This is significant in helping the immigrants in all aspects because they are new in the areas, referred to as the blind. The Islamic Holy Book, the Qur’an, and several sayings of the Prophet provide numerous examples where there are peaceful societies that incorporate immigrants and local communities. This is the approach of the teachings of Islam on immigrants and foreigners. The Prophet reiterated that one cannot be a real believer unless he/she does to his/her brother what he/she wants to be done to him/herself.
The two religions have almost the same concept about immigrants and foreigners. The underlying concept is being a brother’s keeper. Christians in some way tend to advocate for the need for the law and authority to be observed, however, the greatest commandment in the Bible is to love. This provides that both Christians and Muslims should treat the immigrants as one of their own without any prejudice. I would, however, advocate for the Christianity version. In as much we need to incorporate immigrants, there should be some sanity and discipline. Some immigrants can be offered peace but they can cause trouble. There must be measures put in place for the immigrants to adhere to before incorporating and loving them to create law and order in society.
The history of immigration started with the creation of man and it is an ongoing process in the world. There are many reasons people move from one place to another around the globe; some are positive while others are negative. Therefore, it is significant that the nations of the world come up with clear strategies in the incorporation of immigrants to ensure that no party is strained, whether the immigrants or the host population. Considering the different reasons individuals migrate, there should be clear international standards set to address the issue of immigration in a rational manner because it is an international matter.