ADRA made a sweeping call for compassion in the global refugee crisis on Monday, which is United Nations World Refugee Day and comes two days after the Seventh-day Adventist Church marked World Refugee Sabbath with sermons, fundraising, and live broadcasts from refugee camps.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency, which has assisted 5 million refugees over the past five years, called on the international community, politicians, media, churches, and individuals to play a more purposeful role in helping refugees and other displaced people.
“We call on the international community to find a timely, humane solution to resettling the refugees stranded in Greece and other parts of the world,” ADRA said in an e-mailed statement. “We also call on the international community to address the circumstances that cause people to become refugees.
An unprecedented 65.3 million people are refugees, asylum seekers, or internally displaced, or one in every 113 people on Earth, according to figures released by the United Nations refugee agency on the eve of World Refugee Day on June 20. The figure is an increase of 5 million people in a year and the highest number ever recorded, it said.
ADRA, which is wrapping up a special month-long campaign to support refugees, urged politicians not be swayed by populism and the media to report responsibly on the refugee crisis. It also called on pastors to talk with their congregations about a proper Christian response, noting that Adventist churches in Europe have teamed up with with ADRA on projects to support refugees in their communities. In addition, ADRA appealed to individuals to not be guided by selfishness, fear, and prejudice.
“We urge a response to this crisis driven by intelligence, compassion, and a recognition of our shared humanity and human rights,” ADRA said. “We believe that every person has the power to have a positive impact on the world around them, and that there is something everyone can do to help refugees, even if it is just saying a prayer for them or educating yourself about the situation.”
It was not immediately clear Monday how many local Adventist congregations had participated in World Refugee Sabbath on June 18. The final figure for congregations’ donations to ADRA’s refugee work will be available in a few weeks, said Jessica Duffy, a spokeswoman for ADRA International.
But at least four church entities and five congregations joined forces on Sabbath to share a live message of hope from the refugee camp in Dunkirk, France.
Claudette Hannebicque, ADRA director for Dunkirk, spoke via Skype to congregations worshipping in Britain and the United States about ADRA’s work feeding camp residents every Sunday from the limited facilities at the local church and from her own home. Hannebicque, standing in the middle of the camp, expressed Christian compassion for the refugees, who hope to illegally slip across the nearby English Channel to Britain. She said that she might not agree with some of the refugees’ actions but that they are still God's children, made in His image.
Hannebicque is not alone in her compassion. To emphasize the importance of what she and thousands of other volunteers, paid staff, and Adventist-linked nongovernmental organizations are doing for refugees across the world, representatives from ADRA, Adventist World Radio, and the Inter-European and Trans-European Division offices of the Adventist Church focused on the Dunkirk site to share both the plight of the refugees and to highlight the positive work that is being done to help them.
With technology provided by Adventist World Radio, live connections were made to four different worship services in Britain: the contemporary and family services at the Newbold church, Binfield; the Brixton church in London; and the Brighton church on the south coast of England. The Spencerville church in U.S. state of Maryland joined the live conversation later in the day. Hosted by Victor Hulbert, communication director for the Trans-European Division, the live interviews reached an estimated 3,000 church members across the five congregations. Several smaller congregations, including Coleraine in Northern Ireland, tuned in to the Newbold live stream to watch.
Pastor Vili Costescu, preaching at the Brixton church, focused on Exodus 22:21, which says, “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” He reported that a number of church members were surprised to learn from the Skype broadcast that “their church is doing good” and delighted at “the very fact that we were there.”
At the Spencerville church, pastor Chad Stuart appealed for church members to support ADRA and refugees, reading from James 4:17, “To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
Corrado Cozzi, communication director for the Inter-European Division, who conducted interviews in Italian and French at the Dunkirk camp, expressed hope that reporting and interest in refugees would remain high even after World Refugee Sabbath and World Refugee Day.
“We cannot forget them,” he said. “As a church, as individuals, we have to make a difference in their lives.”
What it’s like to volunteer with an Adventist group at a refugee camp in Greece. (TED)
To find out more about ADRA’s work with refugees, visit ADRA.org/refugees. To learn more about what you can do to help refugees, sign the ADRA pledge. For downloadable resources your church can use to devote a service to refugees, visit https://www.adventist.org/en/information/special-days/refugees/.