What’s a parent to do? A murderous tyrant sits upon the throne and ruthlessly crushes all opposition. Drunk with power, he even assassinates three of his children whom he fears will try to usurp him. The message is clear: no-one is safe.
The tryant maintains a network of informers, which means a loose word can see a person disappeared. People in this country have consequently learned the art of silence, even as the tyrant taxes them into poverty to fund a massive building program designed to project his greatness and massage his ego.
And now his fury is turned on a small town south of the capital. Rumours have been spreading that a child has been born who is the true heir to the throne. The tyrant has always been neurotic about his illegitimacy, and this new rumour feeds his neurosis. Troops are dispatched. They arrive unannounced and a nightmare begins. Moving house to house they seize all infant boys and stab them to death. For a few long hours the town is filled with the screams of parents and children, blood flows in the streets, and the stench of death fills the air.
The child rumoured to be king escapes. Days before the soldiers arrive his father had a premonition that his sons life was endangered. He packed up the family and fled. When the news of the slaughter in his hometown reaches him he is engulfed with sorrow and anger…and a determination to see his son to safety. And the only safe place is to be out of the country.
And so Joseph, Mary and their infant son, Jesus, pass from Israel to Egypt. Undocumented, unauthorised, irregular migrants. Asylum seekers.
Jesus was just one of many through history forced to flee their country because of a well grounded fear of persecution. It’s sobering to realise that the ancient Egyptians had a more welcoming approach than twenty-first century Australia. If Jesus and his parents had arrived in Australia, they would be deported to Manus Island or Nauru, or if the detention centres there were full, locked up behind razor wire in a remote part of Australia. Pilloried as “queue jumpers” Joseph, Mary and Jesus will spend at least five to ten years in detention, in facilities the UNHCR has slammed as inhumane. A young Jesus will be subjected to boredom, violence, hopelessness and despair. Psychologists will report that one hundred percent of children, including Jesus, are severely traumatised.
If we wouldn’t do it to Jesus, how can we tolerate doing it to “the least of these”?