Dear Friends,

This week Rudy Prasetya sent me this picture of a mural depicting David and Goliath that he took in Regensburg, Germany. As he says, “the proportions between them seem more accurate!”

David and Goliath are a powerful metaphor for the struggles we experience, and thinking about how those struggles impact the lives of many in our world, this coming Sunday we are backtracking to celebrate Refugee Week (16-22 June).

I want to share with you the reflection Gershon Nimbalker, National Director of Common Grace, posted on Australia’s historic response to those seeking refuge on our shores, and our call as Christians to embody the values of justice, love, compassion and welcome. He titled it, “The Life Changing Gift of Welcome.”

Grace and peace,


My son has just reached an age where he’s beginning to enjoy reading books by the brilliant and hilarious Anh Do. Hot Dog is at the top of the list. Reading Anh’s stories with my son has been a source of joy for me, and no doubt, Australian’s everywhere.

As we enter refugee week, the personal stories of people like Anh Do and Rev Nguyễn Hữu Trí (who has shared his powerful story with us for Refugee Week) (Many of you will remember welcoming Tri to Canberra Baptist in 2014.) has me feeling nostalgic for an Australia of times gone by. Both Anh Do and Rev Nguyễn were born in Vietnam and escaped the brutality of war and dangerous journey to find safety. They left on a small fishing boat, seeking refuge. At sea they faced hunger, dehydration, danger and despair. Eventually they were rescued, and resettled in Australia – where they began a new life.

In the late 1970s and early 80s, the Vietnam war caused a mass displacement of people seeking asylum. Some were venturing to Australia by sea without documents, posing a challenge to politicians. Turn-backs and a detention system were proposed, but then rejected.

Instead, the Malcolm Fraser led Coalition government decided to create a system to resettle refugees on mass. Australia resettled some 60,000 Vietnamese refugees – including Anh and Rev Nguyễn. This happened at a time when our population was just 15 million people, the proportional equivalent today would be 108,000 refugees.

Beyond just resettling large amounts of refugees at this time, we invested in creating a culture of welcome and inclusion, including establishing the SBS.


It’s hard not to lament how far we’ve fallen – from a posture of generosity and welcome, to one of fear and punishment.

In 2022, there was a pocket of hope, that perhaps finally, we would chart a sustained trajectory away from the dehumanising policies that had dominated Australia’s approach to refugees for the past 20 years (since Tampa). Good things happened with the change of government, including the granting of a pathway to permanency for some 20,000 people on temporary visas, a permanent increase in our humanitarian intake, and no one being held in offshore detention.

However, following this year’s high-court’s ruling that indefinite detention for some asylum seekers was not legal – and the arrival of several dozen asylum seekers by sea – it appears fear and punishment have again reared their head. Offshore detention is once again in use, and the Labour government has attempted to pass some of the most punitive migration legislation the nation has seen (which included the power for the Minister to implement wholesale migration bans to countries of their choosing).

The scale of the refugee crisis, and Australia’s current approach to addressing it, I find profoundly disturbing as a follower of Jesus. 


The Christian narrative insists that we are part of one family—God’s family—where distinctions of ethnicity and nationality fade in the light of our shared humanity and the recognition that we are all bearers of God’s image.

This posture is reflected in the Old Testament commands given to the Israelites.: “The Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt..” (Deuteronomy 10.17-19 NIV)

Israel was never to reduce their God to the status of a tribal deity. Theirs was the God of gods, who loved all nations and all people. God may have chosen Israel for a particular purpose, but this was not to be interpreted to mean God favoured Israel to the exclusion of others.

Jesus of course echoes this. The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) reminds us that love for our neighbour is never bounded by culture or ethnicity, while the Parable of the Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25:31-46), with its explicit command to welcome the stranger as we would Christ, teaches that our love for those in need is what being a follower of Jesus is all about.

These are hard teachings for a society being conditioned to fear ‘the other’. We are being told we need policies that allow us to criminalise and detain foreign nationals, in order to protect our safety and prosperity. We’re led to believe that we can’t feasibly take more refugees, because it is too costly or too impactful on our society and standard of living.

The theologian Walter Brueggemann captures the prophetic role we are called to take in these moments: “To welcome the stranger is to challenge the social arrangements that exclude and include. Thus, any serious welcome of a stranger is a gesture that ‘unsettles’ the power arrangements to which we have become accustomed…Jesus did precisely that unsettling.” Brueggemann’s insight calls us to recognize that true Christian welcome is a disruptive force. It demands that we confront and dismantle systems of exclusion and embrace a radical inclusivity that reflects the unsettling love of Christ.

For Christians in Australia, the current asylum seeker and refugee crisis is a call to embody the values of justice, compassion, and radical hospitality that are at the heart of the Gospel. This means advocating for policies that honor the dignity and worth of every human being, regardless of their mode of arrival. It means challenging dehumanizing and exclusionary systems, and striving for a society where all are welcomed and treated with love and respect.

Australia’s recent past, evidenced in the life of Anh Do and Rev Nguyễn, shows that we can move closer to this ideal, and indeed as we do so, it will be a blessing to us all.


In welcoming the stranger, we not only follow the example of Christ but also participate in the transformation of our society into one that is a little closer to the one God intends it to be. A place where love knows no boundaries, where all are welcomed as family, and all flourish. 

Gershon Nimbalker is the National Director of Common Grace and founder of Sojourners Social Change Consultants. He has more than 15 years of experience working in advocacy, policy, and research, as well as leading and growing grass roots movements to campaign on issues of social justice. Gershon lives on the lands of Awabakal peoples in Newcastle, NSW with his young family.

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