12 June 2013
Remember refugees this Sunday, urges WEA
Photo: Kiwanja Refugee Camp. Wikimedia Commons
The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) and the Refugee Highway Partnership (RHP), a WEA Global Partner, are calling upon churches around the world to observe World Refugee Sunday on 16 or 23 June, as a day to remember and pray for those who are persecuted and oppressed around the globe.
Over 42 million people have been forced to flee from their homes to escape war, violence and persecution. The majority are women and children. World Refugee Sunday, which falls on either side of World Refugee Day (June 20), gives Christians an opportunity to demonstrate their common concern for the welfare and protection of forcibly displaced people in the world.
Tom Albinson, WEA ambassador for refugees, displaced and stateless people, said: "Not only has God given us a mandate to love the alien as we love ourselves (Leviticus 19:34), but the world around us is watching and hoping that we will step up to assist refugees, asylum-seekers, internally displaced and stateless people."
In a recent address, Antonio Guterres, UN high commissioner for refugees, shared his conviction concerning the central role that faith-based organisations, like local churches, play in the lives of refugees.
He said: "For the vast majority of uprooted people, there are few things as powerful as their faith in helping them cope with fear, loss, separation, and destitution. Faith is also central to hope and resilience.
"It is often key in enabling refugees to overcome their trauma, to make sense of their loss and to rebuild their lives from nothing. Worship and religious traditions help uprooted people reconfirm their identity as individuals and as members of a community. Faith provides a form of personal and collective support among victims that is crucial for their ability to recover from conflict and flight."
World Refugee Sunday is an opportunity for the Church to focus its prayers on behalf of those who have been uprooted. It is also an opportunity to raise awareness among Christians concerning refugee realities and to consider ways to include ministry among forcibly displaced people within the scope of their mission.
Dr Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary general of the WEA, stated: "As followers of Christ, we must follow him in caring for the vulnerable and marginalised. Refugee Sunday gives us an opportunity to pray collectively and consider how we might do more to help 'the least of these'. I encourage all churches to actively and thoughtfully consider highlighting this important day."
Refugees often feel forgotten and unwelcome in the world. The Church can take advantage of this day to reflect the heart of Jesus who said: "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me" (Matthew 25:35-36).
"There is no nation on earth that remains untouched by the Refugee Highway," Albinson adds. "World Refugee Sunday is a powerful opportunity for the Church around the world to communicate to the world's forcibly displaced people that they are not forgotten and that, together with God, we care deeply for them."