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Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics

Volume 30, Issue 2, Fall/Winter 2010

Esther D. Reed
Pages 59-78

Refugee Rights and State Sovereignty
Theological Perspectives on the Ethics of Territorial Borders

THERE IS A RELATIVE DEARTH OF THEOLOGICAL CONTRIBUTION TO PRESENT-day discussion about the status of territorial borders. Secularist discourse tends to divide between "partialists" and "impartialists." Partialists work with an ideal of states as distinct cultural communities, which justifies priority for the interests of citizens over refugees. Impartialists work with an ideal of states as cosmopolitan agents, which takes into account equally the interests of citizens and refugees. The aim of this essay is to show how selected biblical texts help to rethink these categories and offer different, theologically informed ways of construing the meaning of borders. The need for an "ethic of answerability" is established and initial suggestions are given as to how this approach might be developed.

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