As poor people are being oppressed by rich people, the poor paradoxically often blame other poor people for their misery. The apostle James, Jesus’ own brother who is one of my favourite author, writes in his letter about how strange it is for the Christians of his time to despise the poor while the rich oppressed them:
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong? (Jam 2:5-7)
I have read in the news that in South Africa, some people suffering from unemplyment and marginalization violently attack immigrants from countries like Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, accusing them for “taking our jobs”. At the same time, white South Africans earn six times as much money than blacks, which of course means that if whites earned less there would be more money to employ people with, just as this American CEO could raise the wages of all his employees by lowering his own.
The European colonisers who plundered Africa’s natural resources, installed racist segregation and enjoyed wealth and luxury in gated communities while the indigenous population suffered in poor townships, are the immigrants that black South Africans should really be caring about, since most of their white descendants still are much richer than the rest of the population. SA is one of the most unequal countries in the world. Yet, the poor starts to blame other poor people from other countries. Why is that?
In Europe, where I live, there are thousands of billionaires who live in luxury and affluence. Here in Sweden, our 150 billionaires own one fourth of our contry’s total wealth. That’s sick. And yet, when Swedish workers discover holes in the welfare system they blame immigrants for stealing their jobs, or emptying the social security reserve, or both (even though you can’t “steal someone’s job” and live on social security at the same time). As I’ve written several times before, xenophobia is on the rise in Europe.
And so thousands of refugees drown in the Mediterranean Sea after travelling with dangerous, non-secure vessels, simply because it is illegal for them to buy a plane ticket. I’ll repeat that: it is illegal for refugees, who flee from war, persecution and poverty, to travel into Europe.
Why? I asked some Swedish politicians about this at a seminar one year ago, “Why isn’t it legal for Syrians, who flee from the worst humanitarian crisis in modern history, to travel to Sweden?” – “Because then too many would come”, they said. And so European politicians simply let people drown in the Mediterranean, because they’re xenophobic and don’t want to many black people in their countries.
God wants us to love immigrants as ourselves (Lev 19:34) and to give everything we have to the poor (Lk 12:33). The problem is not that people from poor countries move to rich countries, the problem is that rich countries deliberately kill poor people in order to remain richer than the rest of the world. We’re having a global apartheid, where poor, dark-skinned people are only allowed in Europe in small amounts; and the rich, white men that rule this continent simply let people die in order to defend the status quo.
What should the Christian response be to all this? “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Rom 12:13). Passionately serve the poor until death. But when it comes to the rich, I join in the apostle James’ words of judgment:
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you. (Jam 5:1-6)