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How Should Christians View Asylum?

We’ve received this question from folks a lot recently. In answering this question, there are a few things we should consider, including the historical context of asylum, what the Bible says about immigrants, and different ways Christians can engage with the issue of immigration.

Historical Context

Asylum is a form of legal protection that allows people fearing persecution or harm in their native country to remain in the United States. Asylum seekers can apply for this protection from within the country or at a port of entry.

The legal concept of asylum is not new. The second World War displaced over 7 million people around the globe and, as a result, the United States created its first formal refugee and asylum policies. Around the same time, asylum was included in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, drafted by representatives from all over the world. This declaration for the first time laid out “fundamental human rights to be universally protected.” 

Asylum is also included in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. All three of these documents specifically outline that “everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”

It’s important to pause here to emphasize that asylum is legal. Misinformation on the news can lead people to believe that pursuing this legal right is a criminal act. The Refugee Act of 1980 formalized the legal basis for seeking asylum and individuals may request asylum both at ports of entry and while already inside the United States. To qualify for asylum, individuals need to fear persecution due to political opinion (or the political opinion they are perceived to have), race, religion, nationality, or membership in a “particular social group.”

What does Scripture say about asylum?

With our base understanding that asylum is legal, what does that mean for how we are to respond as Christians?  What is our obligation as people of faith?

While the Bible is, of course, a text that should be considered in context, the Bible actually does have a lot to say about the topic of immigration. Scripture is clear about God’s heart for immigrants.

From warnings that the way that we treat foreigners reveals the state of our relationship with God:

So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against… [those who] deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3:5)

To the call to practice hospitality: 

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:13)

To God’s oft-repeated refrain to the Israelites: 

Love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. (Deut. 10:19)

Jesus even said that when we welcome the stranger, we welcome him:

“When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?” … The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matt. 25:38-40)

All of these verses (and more!) make it clear that God’s heart is for the oppressed—and He calls us to welcome the stranger.

How can Christians engage with the topic of asylum?

The Christian Reformed Church has long proclaimed that the Gospel must be upheld in both word and deed. This means that we, as Christians, are called not only to echo God’s call to welcome the stranger in our conversations, but in our actions as well. This can look like volunteering to welcome asylees with your family or your church, making space in your budget to support organizations doing immigration work, or advocating for asylum seekers to Members of Congress.

For advocacy opportunities in the U.S., visit our Action Center.

For advocacy opportunities in Canada, visit our partners at the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue.


The Reformed family is a diverse family with a diverse range of opinions. Not all perspectives expressed on the blog represent the official positions of the Christian Reformed Church. Learn more about this blog, Reformed doctrines, and our diversity policy on our About page.

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