Sunday, June 25, 2017


            My mother and father’s families came to America around the turn of the 20th Century as immigrants. History tells us most people have migrated to other lands as refugees seeking safety, sustenance and a better life. They may not have wanted to leave their homes, but in order to live they were forced to.
            Nursing a coffee in a small cafe in Berat, Albania, Nevila Muka recalled the effects the 1990s Kosovo War had on her country. To escape the death and devastation of war, more than 500,000 Kosovo refugees fled to Albania. Muka hadn’t only observed the mass exodus from a distance, she had lived in it.
            “It’s a strong Albanian tradition to welcome strangers,” she said, “In the old times, if you were a traveler or seeking refuge, you could knock on the door of a house and ask, ‘Head of the house, do you want guests?’ And the owner would have to take you in. We actually took in a family,” Muka said.
            “I was young, so I played with their kids a lot. They were really good bakers and made the best bread I’ve ever tasted.” “Didn’t that ever get difficult?” Muka was asked. “Not really for us,” she replied, “since we had enough. But for many families it was a struggle. Some barely had enough to support the refugees and even went into debt doing it. But they would never turn anyone away.” When asked why, she said, “It’s Besa, the Albanian way.”
            Besa is an Albanian code of conduct that dictates generous hospitality. If someone comes to you looking for help, you give them a place to stay. It is based on the concept that, “Before the house belongs to the owner, it first belongs to God and to the guest.” This concept might also apply to citizens of a country.
            Unknown to most, Albania was the only European country to emerge from WWII with a larger Jewish population than it had at the start, saving nearly all of its original Jews while offering refuge to more than 2,000 others from surrounding countries. Despite pressure from Italian and Nazi fascists, the Albanians refused to yield their guests to the enemy.
            Although some of the more rigid aspects of Besa today have lost their hold with the passage of time, this sense of dutiful hospitality has endured in the Albanian people, and the Kosovo War of the 1990s provided proof.
            Hebrews 13:2 tells us, Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” There may seem many reasons today to distrust refugees, but perhaps we might ask ourselves, “What would Jesus want us to do?”

Would you be willing to open your home to strangers in need?

Rev. Bob Tasler,

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