When Pastor Will asked me to write an article about my perspective on the refugee crisis, I instantly thought of reporting on the global, regional and local aspects of this broad topic. This would also include feedback from the recent Refugee Conference in Bern, where many Christian organizations displayed their activities in the areas of prevention, protection and integration.
But clearly, all of us can gather information ourselves from a wide range of articles, websites and reports on any aspect of the current situation. It is more difficult, however, to imagine what individuals and families have to go through from the distressing time of leaving their home, enduring a live threatening journey and eventually making it to a safe place via one of the escape routes. Once arrived, they learn that the next phase of their journey will also be an enormous challenge.
Hence, I want to share a story of an Iranian mother and her twelve year old son, let’s call them Afari and Nasir. In these very days, they are waiting for a decision on their request for asylum. But why did they leave their home? How could they find their way to Europe? What are their greatest fears and challenges? These are some of the many questions that apply to all refugees and migrants. The answers however, differ in every case.
Afari became a Christian in Iran 10 years ago. Soon she was outcast by her husband and some family members and threats were followed by severe physical abuse. It became impossible for Afari to run her business and to live a normal social life. As a Christian she lived in permanent fear. When it became increasingly dangerous, she saw no other way but to leave it all behind her, including her family. What followed, was an odyssey as we often hear or read about. Unimaginable obstacles had to be conquered, basic needs could hardly be met and above all, she had to take care of her son while all of this was going on. Courage, perseverance and her steadfast faith in Christ however, kept her going. Meeting other Christians gave them hope and cemented their trust in the Lord at the same time. Several months later, having survived sickness, starvation and various dangerous situations, they finally made it to Germany. The consequences of this ordeal only came to the surface over time, both physically and mentally. The 18 months since their arrival were a constant up and down battle between hope and despair, support and animosity, making new friends yet still experiencing loneliness. Without the encouragement and dedication by other Christians and volunteers, this demanding life in a new country would have been unbearable. God has been with Afari and Nasir each step of the way and the various trials and encounters with brothers and sisters in Christ further strengthened their faith.
Now for us, a new set of questions arises. What does this have to do with me? What does it mean for our church? Can we play a role and provide any kind of aid here? Do we even want to engage and if so, how? What are the risks and constraints? The Bible says in Gal 6,10 „Therefore, as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.“ God is showing us what it means to love our new neighbours and is inviting us to pursue His purposes for us in this regard. We may not be able to prevent the crisis, but we certainly can commit ourselves to the desperately needed recovery work and assist our new neighbours respectfully, to become more settled and ease their loads.
I respectfully invite you to join hands with us as we seek the Lord`s guidance in engaging this vast challenge and somehow seek to make a small yet significant difference in these precious lives.
Yours in His Service,
Join us this coming Sunday as we continue our preparation for Christmas by considering together some of the amazing Miracles of Christmas from Matthew 1:18-25. May I also remind you of the singing Christmas Tree on Saturday afternoon in the city, we llok forward to seeing you there.
Blessings over the Festive Season,