Mass migration is a concern for many countries today: it is part of both the history and the present of Anabaptist-Mennonites. We have been both those who are migrating and those who are welcoming neighbours to a new home. At Justice on the Journey: Migration and the AnabaptistMennonite Story in San Rafael de Heredia, Costa Rica, 6 April 2019, presenters from around the world gave testimonies of migration.
The role of the church is to love and welcome the foreigners in our communities as Leviticus 19:34 and Mathew 25:34–36. Refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people are among the world’s most vulnerable people. God calls us to seek their protection and welfare.
Creating awareness of refugee realities
Our local church leaders are educating their congregations concerning forced displacement in the world today to become better informed themselves. Although news headlines often do not draw attention to the global refugee crisis, there are useful resources available through which we can all be better informed.
Therefore, it is our obligation to adequately inform the congregation as well.
Get informed in the biblical perspective
Leaders educate their faith community concerning the context of forced displacement in the texts from which they teach and preach. It is indeed powerful when such a passage is connected to refugee realities in the world today. It is important for Christ followers to see the pattern of God at work in the midst of forced displacement in Scripture so that they anticipate God at work in today’s refugees.
The biblical narrative is filled with stories of forced displacement. (For example, John’s exile on the island of Patmos.)
Pray for forcibly displaced people
Local church leaders encourage their faith communities to pray on behalf of the world’s refugees. It is most natural to encourage the church to pray for refugees and asylum seekers in our own city.
When breaking news includes mention of forcibly displaced people, we should include them in our prayers.
Pray for opportunities
We should not be surprised to find forcibly displaced people in our daily life. So be intentional and keep your eyes open for refugees, immigrants and migrants during your daily routine. Look for them while at work, school and church. Look for them in your community. Pray for opportunities to love refugees, immigrants and migrants in your community.
Do not be surprised when God puts such opportunities in your path.
Help overcome challenges that refugees face in a new country
Newly arrived asylum seekers and refugees need help with basic human needs like
- temporary shelter
- basic food
- health care services
Local churches can assist refugees and asylum seekers in whatever small way which is manageable, then refer to government and other partners who have adequate capacity to handle the group better.
The needs are again pointed out in the Scripture by Jesus Christ, in Matthew 25:35–36.
A brief story from Kenya
In view of the aforementioned small interventions, Kenya Mennonite Church has Eastleigh Fellowship Centre (EFC) located in a Somali-majority, refugee-dense neighborhood in Nairobi, Kenya. The centre promotes the peaceful co-existence between Muslims and Christians.
The main program brings together both Muslim and Christian youths, thereby building strong relationships across ethnic and religious divides.
Notably basketball is very popular among the boys and girls. Tournaments are done every two months. Recently, there is an expansion of the sports program to soccer. The soccer has now brought more users. The issue here is to bring friendliness among the immigrants and the Kenyans. This is meant to bring peace among the youths.
Time is created amid the sporting activities to provide an opportunity to discuss peace and its values. Religious leaders turn up to teach the youths about peace from their traditional point of view.
Christian-Muslim dialogue is another aspect that EFC does to promote peace and missions. This is done once every two months. This is to bring together Muslims (usually immigrants from Somali) and Christians to discuss issues of faith. They discuss topics like “is Jesus God?” The purpose is to find some people who will later ask more questions concerning the Christian basis on the dialogue topics. We know the Holy Spirit has been working on these people and they are ripe to follow.
We take these opportunities to build relationships that later allow for sharing Christ and more peace building work.
—Samson Omondi Ongode is an Africa representative on the Executive Committee of Mennonite World Conference. He is general secretary of Kenya Mennonite Church. MWC vice president Rebecca Osiro presented this testimony on behalf of Samson Omondi Ongode at Renewal 2027 in Costa Rica.
This article first appeared in Courier/Correo/Courrier October 2019.