While the Bible does not mention the word refugee, it is full of stories that show God’s heart of love and compassion for those who left their homes and moved to new lands. Sometimes this relocation occurred by choice, as with immigrants of today, but oftentimes people were forcibly relocated to other countries due to war, drought, persecution, or other circumstances beyond their control, similar to refugees today.

It is amazing to see how much of the Bible is filled with stories of migrants and refugees. 

  • Abraham was called by God to leave his home and go to a land he did not yet know.
  • Joseph was sold by his very own brothers into slavery in Egypt.
  • The Israelites, led by Moses, fled slavery and oppression in Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, and entered the desert, where they wandered for 40 years before entering the Promised Land.
  • Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fled from Nazareth into Egypt. Jesus understands and knows the plight of refugees because he was one. Matthew 2:13-15 “an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him. So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod."
  • Noah was pushed out of his home by natural disaster.
  • Naomi and her family left their country due to famine.
  • Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego lived captive in exile in Babylon after their home country was besieged. The list goes on.

These words and truths from the Bible can guide us, not only in our relationships with refugees, but with anyone in our lives who has a need.


  • Hebrews 13:1-2 "Let brotherly love abide in you, and do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some have entertained angels unaware." 
  • Luke 6:32-36 "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High."


  • Romans 15:7 "Therefore welcome one another, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God."
  • Romans 12:13 "Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality."


  • Matthew 25:37-40 "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit 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'."

Defend & Protect

  • Proverbs 31:8-9 "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy." 
  • Psalm 146:9 "The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow."
  • Dueteronomy 10:17-19 "He administers justice for the orphan and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Love the stranger, therefore, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."
  • Dueteronomy 24:17-18 "Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice."
  • Zechariah 7:9-10 "This is what the Lord Almighty said: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor'."

The Catholic Church's response of Mercy

The Church follows the teachings of Jesus by following the Corporal Works of Mercy to meet the physical needs of people around us. These seven works are our guide to ministry. 

1. Feed the hungry

2. Give drink to the thirsty

3. Clothe the naked

4. Shelter the homeless

5. Visit the sick

6. Visit the imprisoned

7. Bury the dead

Wisdom from our Leaders

Pope John Paul II, in an Address on World Migrants’ Day in 1985, stressed that a personal encounter with our Lord leads to a daily vision of the Lord present and active in the world, especially in the poor, the stranger, the migrant, the refugee.

Sean Callahan, the Chief Operating Officer for Catholic Relief Services (CRS), is working in areas where Christians have been persecuted and driven from their homes. He sees first hand the suffering of refugees of various faiths and religions, and each day his team responds to needs that are larger than can be met right now. He summed up his motivation with this statement, "We do not help people because they are Catholic. We help people because we are Catholic."

The Bishops of the United States as a whole have called upon all people of good will, but especially Catholics, to welcome newcomers in their neighborhoods and schools, places of work and worship, with heartfelt hospitality, openness, and eagerness to help and learn from our brothers and sisters. “We bishops commit ourselves with renewed energy to display a spirit of welcome, and we encourage all those involved in ministry to share in that spirit.” 

Consider these words from Pope Paul VI:

“Take a Christian or a handful of Christians who, in the midst of their own community, show their capacity for understanding and acceptance, their sharing of life and destiny with other people, their solidarity with the efforts of all for whatever is noble and good. 

Let us suppose that, in addition, they radiate in an altogether simple and unaffected way their faith in values that go beyond current values, and their hope in something that is not seen and that one would not dare to imagine. Through this wordless witness these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live: Why are they like this? Why do they live in this way? What or who is it that inspires them? Why are they in our midst?

Such a witness is already a silent proclamation of the good news and a very powerful and effective one…this witness which involves presence, sharing, solidarity…is an essential element, and generally the first one, in evangelization.”

May we be these Christians, who challenge and stir others to know Jesus more.

Isaiah 58: 6-12

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

  Is it not to share your food with the hungry

and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,

and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?


Then your light will break forth like the dawn

and your healing will quickly appear;

then your righteousness will go before you,

and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer.

You will cry for help, and He will say, Here am I. 


If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.

 The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fails.

 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.