Today’s refugee crisis has engulfed public policy and politics in countries around the world, deeply dividing communities. With increased migration many fear terrorism, crime and a dilution of their perceived national identity, while others embrace it as an inevitable reality of the globalized world in which we live. But what does the Bible have to say about migration and displacement and how refugees, migrants, and the stateless should be treated?
Strangers in the Kingdom asks why God cares for the displaced, presenting biblical, theological, and missiological foundations for ministries to those who have been uprooted from their homes and all that is familiar. Rupen Das and Brent Hamoud apply their experience and expertise to provide timely answers that the Christian community is waiting to hear. Addressing the humanitarian and legal needs of the displaced is the starting point, but relief, repatriation, and resettlement programs need to help the stranger find a place to belong, a place to call home.
About the Authors Rupen Das has extensive global experience in relief and development and has worked with several organizations, including World Vision. He works for the Canadian Bible Society as their National Director. Previously he was Research Professor of Social Justice, Compassion and Development at Tyndale University College and Seminary in Toronto, Canada, as well as on the faculty of the International Baptist Theological Study Center, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Brent Hamoud lives with his family in Beirut, Lebanon, where he is a Projects Manager with Kids Alive International, a faith-based organization working with at-risk children. His work includes ministry to refugee, migrant, and stateless children and youth. He has a Master of Religion in Middle Eastern and North African Studies from the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, Beirut, Lebanon.
As it is possible to read in newspapers and on various web portals, the number of refugees in Bosnia and Herzegovina is rising.
The refugees currently in Bosnia are casualties of the local social and political context. They are facing the fear of not knowing what’s going to happen with them, often with no or limited access to the basic hygiene, food and water.
International organizations are limited in their work as their actions often can be interpreted as a political agenda. That is unacceptable, since they have the mandate to help refugees. It is necessary to approach this vulnerable group carefully and find the best way to help them go through this situation. With the local elections in sight, the campaigns are using refugees as play-toys and leverage for political power.
In order to help the refugees in this situation after consulting with analysts, politicians, and representatives of international organizations, we have been advised to get involved independently. With that in mind, we have established a new organization under the name ‘Hands of Hope Bosnia and Herzegovin’.
Hands of Hope is a sister organization of Croatian Baptist Aid which provides training to local churches and NGOs. Hands of Hope will be officially registered in the coming days. Through this organization we want to neutrally and objectively provide help to refugees, and help the government see what is important and how they can help. At the same time we want to offer local churches and NGOs the opportunity to be actively and constructively involved in this work.
This situation is way above our means, but we believe that together with your prayers and active involvement, we can help the 3000 people currently in Bosnia.
If you would like to send a team to help, please write to Elvis Dzafic at: [email protected]
On June 8, in Sarajevo the Refugee Response Cluster Group had its second meeting. Representatives of local Protestant churches and faith-based NGOs discussed the current situation. Actions point has been drown. An important suggestion was drafting a document that will present the future joint actions of the RRCG to the public and government institutions. The document will also suggest ways in which the Bosnian government can formally cooperate with Protestant churches and NGOs, in the refugee work, but also other areas such as community development.
Humanitarian profile – the most vulnerable group is the refugees located in abandoned buildings and on the streets, who don’t have access to water, food clothes and adequate hygiene. They are prone to illnesses and the consequence is a higher mortality rate, especially during winter. Their relocation and movement is also made more dangerous by various unmarked minefields around Bosnia. Due to the limited capacity of state asylum centers, refugees are forced to find accommodation elsewhere, so they are spreading around in groups, making it difficult to provide needed assistance. Due to the bad economic situation in Bosnia, there is great danger of smuggling and taking advantage of refugees.
WASH and nutrition – Refugees do not have access to clean water in places they are habituating. Outside of the asylum center, which is able to accommodate only a limited number of people, there isn’t many options for refugees, so they resort to using café restrooms and public restrooms. Refugees don’t have access to proper sanitation. In asylum centers, refugees are provided with medical care and nutritive foods, but outside of those centers there is no assistance provided for most of the refugees. NGOs are providing food for those outside of asylum centers, but their capacities are limited, and they can only provide certain types of foods.
Statistics The number of illegal crossings into the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina from January 1st until April 15th is 2240 citizens from countries of high migration risk. The number of prevented crossings on the borders between B&H and Serbia is 730 persons. Places of crossings into the B&H territory according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the largest number of illegal crossings is in the area of Trebinje, Višegrad, Zvornik, Bratunac, Gacka, Velika Kladuša, Bijeljina and Bihać. A smaller number has been detected around Brčko, Foča, Posušje and Čapljina.
Situation in Sarajevo The number of migrants in Sarajevo since January 1st until May18th is somewhere between 300-500, mostly consisting of persons returned there due to failed attempts to cross into western European countries and persons crossing from Serbia and Montenegro.
Structure of the migrant population The migrant population in B&H consists mostly of Syrians, Pakistanis, Libyans,Eritreans , Moroccans, Turks, Ukrainians.
Refugee Days in June 2018 People all over Europe are called to focus on those people that are less privileged. The World Refugee Sunday (17 / 24. June) and the World Refugee Day (June 20th) will focus on young refugees that had no choice and had to leave their parents way too early. Join the initiative to support this vulnerable group.
Who would send his only sixteen year old son alone halfway around the world? In the past three years, parents have been forced to do so. In the year 2017 over 11 million teenagers1 were on their way alone worldwide, as they had either lost their parents on the journey or fled without their parents. These young children and youngsters need help in settling in a new country and a new culture. A process that needs time and energy. We invite you to show your sympathy and solidarity especially during the Refugee Days 2018.
APPsolutely simple – Integrate Refugees with three mouse clicks Shopping on your own. Making new friends in the sports club. Finding the correct agency. Joining a language course. Going swimming. Finding a free Wi-Fi hotspot. All these things help young refugees to settle in Europe and to feel comfortable and welcomed. They are first steps to integration and meeting locals.
The Love Europe Refugee App supports this process. Add your events where you would like to welcome refugees easily into the guide in the app. Just download the app, click the + button in the Locations or Events section, and fill out your info and submit it. Also use the app to find existing local initiatives if you want to join in.
Become a partner Become part of the growing network where refugees are welcomed all over Europe. Join us as the over 600 other small and big public and private initiatives in Europe that are already registered in the app.
Help us to keep this app free of charge for refugees with a smaller or bigger donation as a private donor or in our partner program: www.love-europe.org
20th June is World Refugee Day, an annual opportunity to highlight refugee issues. The 2 Sundays before and after this day are World Refugee Sundays. So, for 2018, these are 17th and 24th June.
Churches, NGOs, projects, individuals all choose to mark these Sundays in different ways. The World Evangelical Alliance hopes we will use the hashtags #WorldRefugeeSunday and #RefugeeHighway to share what they are doing in order to encourage and inspire others. You are most welcome to post resources, news and pictures on the Refugee Campaign Facebook page and we would welcome news to put in a future newsletter.
The Refugee Highway Partnership have produced this great resource pack, with prayers, stories, sermons, children and youth resources and The Peace Between film.
The European Evangelical Alliance is not in the habit of getting involved in film projects. But it made an exception for “The Peace Between”, a short documentary, giving a glimpse of 3 genuine friendships between a European and a displaced person. We knew that it could powerfully open up non-political, honest and respectful discussion about how we all feel about foreigners moving into our neighbourhoods. This kind of dialogue space is desperately needed among Christians and among broader society.
So EEA embarked on a big collaborative effort to help the film be completed and to create discussion, church service and prayer materials to go with it. We are hugely grateful for all who have given their creative talents, time and money and now we pray that many churches will choose to open up space for people to “meet” a displaced person through viewing the film. Possibly the week around World Refugee Day (17-24 June) might be a perfect opportunity.
We are immensely encouraged by the feedback we have received so far. Here is just one comment.
“I really think the film will help us to understand how good relationships can change bad habits and wrong expectations of refugees. This film gives me many good ideas and calls me into action,” wrote Vitaly Vlasenko, of both the Russian and European Evangelical Alliances.
The final word goes to Istvan Horvath General Secretary of the Hungarian Evangelical Alliance and one of the film’s stars.
“I wanted to be part of this film because I would like to help churches and Christian believers to find real, good and balanced answers to this complex and difficult situation. Most of the people who I am connected to have never met any refugee or migrant. Starting from this point of view, I think that it is true of many people in churches as well. Because they don’t have any personal experience, they receive information from different media. I find that the media is biased (with rare exceptions). People are watching, listening and reading mainly that kind of media where the news is interpreted according to their worldview and political beliefs. The propaganda from both side is very determined and very shortsighted, overly simplified and they use just simple political messages. I saw a lot of arguing from both side but I rarely had experience when I heard a really balanced views (It is true worldwide include Europe and Hungary as well.). Moreover, I do not want to get into the political or economic aspects of this issue. I would like to encourage God’s people to find what is our/their responsibility and our/their possibilities in this hard situation – at this historic moment. The Gospel will never change.”
The Peace Between explores how unlikely friendships can begin and continue to grow. We meet three Europeans who have had displaced people come into their country and their lives. And we meet the people who have travelled thousands of kilometres to seek sanctuary in Europe. These are friendships that grew in spite of huge differences.
The teams who have made the film and developed accompanying resources on www.peacebetweendialogue.com hope that, by looking at The Peace Between, there will be opportunities for honest reflection and discussion about how we all feel about displaced people in our communities.
Viewing asylum seekers through the various lenses of politics, humanitarian need, economic problems or security concerns is valid. This film invites people to pick up a new lens: relationship. It reveals the miracle of friendship stretching beyond vast differences. The Peace Between is an opportunity to “meet” real people, both Europeans and those that our cultures call ‘foreigners’ and to be challenged by how we can be neighbour to one another in spite of barriers.
The goal of this project is bigger than a simple film. We hope that churches as well as student and community groups will create the opportunity for people to view the film and then go a step further. The project envisions that they will be inspired to provide an intentionally safe space for people to react honestly to the film’s content through the sharing of experiences, hopes and concerns. Materials have been provided to make this easy.
The film and resources can be accessed and used via www.peacebetweendialogue.com . Translations of the discussion guide and subtitles in 20 languages are in the process of being added.
We would like to thank Talitha Brauer, Caroline Kamya and Dylan Klass, the makers of The Peace Between and their partners and volunteers who have worked tirelessly to create such a wonderful resource despite such limited resources. And we want to thank all who have assisted in the creation and translation of the resources on www.peacebetweendialogue.com and some amazing advisors who have guided the project.
We hope that refugee ministries, Evangelical Alliances, denominations, mission agencies, NGOs, student groups and others will let their people know about The Peace Between so that it can open up helpful reflection and discussion across Europe.
Three countries. Six nationalities. One Film. And, the challenges that come with finding the peace that can exist between us. May this project be a lens into the human side of the refugee crisis and may it lead all of us to peace.
More than 170,000 asylum-seeking children and youth have arrived alone in Europe since 2015. As the Church responds, it can be beneficial to come together to consider how God asks us to continue to care for these youth. How can we share resources and learnings? What do we still need to better understand about their experiences and their dreams for their futures? Where does a dialogue on faith fit into our relationships with these youth? The Mobilised for Unaccompanied Minors (M.U.M.) Network serves as a gathering place for churches, ministries and Christian individuals who help (or want to help) unaccompanied children and youth.
MUM exists to facilitate the dialogue, share or create needed resources, and raise awareness among the churches who are not yet connected with these youth. We seek to learn together how best to come alongside unaccompanied minors as their new community, to empower them to find solutions to their situations and work with them as they recover from trauma and renew their hope for their futures. We also serve as a voice to the Church, community and governments on behalf of these minors.
We work together in several ways:
Network of Ministries: We host monthly calls and connect via email and our Facebook Group to share best practices, identify gaps in care for unaccompanied refugee youth, raise awareness of the plight of these youth within our communities and advocate on their behalf.
Resources for churches, our communities, and unaccompanied asylum-seeking youth: We work together to create or share resources for these youth and for churches and communities.
Awareness raising: Through relationships with organisations and other networks, we raise awareness about the needs and vulnerabilities of these youth, as well as their resiliency and potential to build a solid future if given a chance to participate in community. Through these networks, we seek to connect youth with caring churches and individuals who can befriend them on their journeys.
On Wednesday 31st May, the European Evangelical Alliance organised, as part of The Refugee Campaign, a hearing in the European Parliament: “D2uble Penalty: Refugees and freedom of religion or belief”. The event was co-hosted by Messrs Branislav Škripek & Lars Adaktusson, Members of the European Parliament.
50 participants attended the hearing session, included some Members of the European Parliament and their office. This was the occasion to raise awareness on the double penalty refugees from religious minorities experience when arriving in Europe: harassment and persecution in camps after fleeing violence in their home country. And also to discuss policy challenges and recommendations.
Below are some highlights from the event, and proposals of advocacy actions which both individuals and communities can undertake.
Highlights from the event
“A pan-European problem”
In addition to the reports introduced by Open Doors and Christian Solidarity Worldwide, several other research papers were briefly presented. These resources could serve us well while drafting further policy recommendations.
From the various interventions it became clear that religion or belief-based intolerance and discrimination of refugees is a pan-European problem. That’s why it is important to share materials and ideas that could be applied in all EU Member States. Some great suggestions were made that will need further attention.
It is good to realise that refugees bring their own culture and that, as a result, reception centres and refugee camps are microcosms of their own. This should be taken into account by officials responsible for managing camps and accommodation centres.
Introducing refugees to their host culture should start as soon as possible. The YouTube animation film and related posters shared by Stichting Gave were interesting examples of such efforts.
Although from a manageability perspective, the focus of camp authorities will be on the majority, the religious minorities in the camp need empowerment eg by a supportive environment from local faith communities.
“There’s a lot to be done in terms of education”
The ‘Gave’ Foundation and Howard Stern from the International Christian Consulate both underlined the need to strengthen training of officials, security staff and accommodation managers on human rights and religious freedom. This also applies to lawyers supporting asylum seekers, especially lawyers dealing with applications from converts.
Training should not be limited to physical get-togethers. There are great opportunities for online training as well, which was underlined extensively in the afternoon workshop. The ‘Gave’ Foundation (NL) and The Open University (UK) shared initial ideas which could lay the foundation for a high-impact educational initiatives, some of which already exist, which we could all benefit from.
A critical need appeared for education programmes for refugees and host communities on cultural awareness and European values of non-discrimination, religious tolerance and democracy.
Church communities have shown that they can be ressources of moral support for asylum seekers. Training in asylum issues and procedures as well as on reporting potential problems in camps to the right authority would bolster both individual support and reporting on behalf of asylum seekers.
Other suggestions and highlights:
Create a list of MPs/MEPs with refugee accommodation facilities in their constituency
Revise UNHCR vulnerability criteria to reflect the situation of individuals under pressure for their religion or belief
Tackle the issue of translators’ and interpreters’ integrity regarding religion, ethnicity and language
Work with accommodation authorities to better identify and protect converts amongst refugees
Document and counter the rise of violence during Ramadan, and more generally prevent the implementation of shari’a law within refugee camps
Work together on reforming the asylum claim system with guidelines, best practices and common materials: for example guidelines for conversion assessment in asylum claims, provision of training materials (more information will follow)
The necessity to link organisations on the ground with advocacy organisations and academia
Conduct a thorough European-wide research on cases of harassment/persecution of religious minorities in camps
Invest in interfaith dialogue
Explore opportunities to get the Fundamental Rights Agency involved in addressing violations of freedom of conscience and religion of refugees.
A fuller report from the event will follow in the coming weeks, highlighting policy recommendations and their implementation. If you would like to share some more resources, notes or ideas, please send them to the organisers:
The EEA also wishes to act as a catalyst for seeking and implementing practical and policy responses to the multiple challenges to freedom of religion or belief for the refugees. We will therefore also seek to connect participants and interested parties to that effect.
(IMPORTANT: in your custom message, replace #EUCouncil #eucopresident by @EUCouncil @eucopresident for Twitter and by @eucouncil @europeancouncilpresident for Facebook to mention the EU Council and its president)
The ‘Gave’ Foundation worked with the Dutch Refugee Agency to develop an animation video for asylum seekers which, among others, informs them about freedom or religion or belief in the Netherlands. You can find the video on YouTube, here.
Many refugees have been in survival mode for so long they have forgotten how to grieve. Some feel traumatised by their memories of the past, and others are worn down through the complicated procedures on which their hopes for a new start rest. The challenges of gaining legal status, finding housing, securing employment and learning language are important to work through in the process of integration, but perhaps the most essential factor for the long term success in building a new life is emotional wellbeing.
This is where Life Transitions Refugee aims to help. Our Reflective Journey gives refugees the opportunity and the tools to start to commemorate the past, to accept the present, and to look forward to the future with hope.
We train and resource churches, community groups and charities to host the Reflective Journey. Drawing on biblical stories, the journey takes participants through four interactive stations helping them mark their arrival, and preparing them for the challenges of building a new life. Through the process participants gain an understanding of the impact of trauma, normalizing some of the symptoms they may be experiencing. They are given a safe space to start to grieve, and their emotional resilience is built up.
“When we were introduced to Life Transitions we felt like we finally had an effective tool in our hands to help. As a pastor and missionary among refugees I highly recommend Life Transitions Refugee for churches engaged with displaced people”
(Reinhard Leistner – Head of Refugee work for BFP / Assemblies of God Churches in Germany)
The Reflective Journey is currently available in 6 languages and has been run by ministries supporting refugees in Germany, Belgium, Greece and the UK. There is also an adapted version for children and victims of human trafficking.
There were expectations in the air as people mingled with coffee and cake. A fresh blend of well established Swedish business people, family and friends from Syria, representatives from different governmental functions, even a representative from the Swedish Parliament and media were filling the room.
“We are proud to present a group of 9 entrepreneurs who will pitch their business ideas today” said Hakan Sandberg, the founder of the Itzinya concept, as the program started. After Hakan introduced Itzinya, Khaldoun Sarraj from Syria continued to give a picture of what it mean to be a new arrival in Sweden. “As new arrivals we came eager to rebuild our lives but with only the initial idea in our minds, and then we worked together at Itzinya to come closer to our final “product”. What you will see today is the result of hard work. We have an unusual situation. We struggle with language, to understand the Swedish tax system, we need to build relations both in business and private and in many ways we feel like we are starting all over again like children”. Khaldoun who has an MBA from Dubai and have been responsible at Mercedes after sales department in Dubai, with 200 people reporting to him, is himself a clear example of this difficult transition. He is now full time staff with Itzinya and will lead the work in Norrkoping moving forward.
Then one after the other pitched their ideas to the audience. It was a mix of business ideas that had come to a variety of different stages. Many in the audience were surprised when they heard the experience the entrepreneurs had behind them from both studies and previous jobs that laid the basis for the ideas they were now working hard to realise. There was one invention for TV studios, already proven and sold in the Arab world but that the entrepreneur now wanted to start manufacturing in Sweden for global export. Another is planning to start a business coordinating the ground handling and flight permissions for aviation companies, something that he has previous experience of. If he succeeds, he will need to employ people to work 3 shifts due to the nature of this kind of business. Yet another is starting a new global perfume brand targeting a customer segment that no one previously have thought of and he has extensive experience in this industry. A couple of restaurants and one export company for medical equipment were also pitched. The export company had already shipped its first batch to his first customer. One could easily read the pride those entrepreneurs felt as they pitched and their sense of hope for the future.
“It is amazing to see the change this group has gone through during those 4 months” said Hakan. When they met the first time and introduced themselves they were all strangers to one another. They explained how they didn’t have any contact with Swedish people, no knowledge of the language and how they felt totally outside society. This group was all in the category that had not yet got their residence permits and therefore was not eligible for language study. A period that currently is more than 12 months from their arrival. Now after 4 months they are like a big family that trust, help and encourage one another. They got to know many Swedish people both in business and privately. They all have a personal coach and by now most of them have received their permissions and started language studies. They are excited over the opportunity to add value to their new society. And all these are just “side effects” of the startup process, Hakan stated this reality with a smile!
He ended saying; “We have tested this with one group of new comers and know that it works. We are now ready to expand both to other cities in Sweden and to other cities in Europe that has the same need of job creation and integration”.
Itzinya is looking to start multiplying the concept where it is needed. They would be happy to host a Skype call with interested people as a way for them to get introduced to the concept and be able to validate whether they should move on with serious plans. You can contact them at [email protected]