June 1, 2019

Adventist Church Will Celebrate World Refugee Sabbath on June 15

The Seventh-day Adventist Church will commemorate World Refugee Sabbath on June 15, 2019, to remind church members that an attitude of hospitality is biblical and can have surprising and positive rewards. June 15 also marks the Saturday (Sabbath) closest to June 20, a day chosen by the United Nations as World Refugee Day, leaders said.

The theme of the 2019 event is “Hospitality: A Reminder of Grace and Blessing.”

In 2019, twenty people per minute are forced to leave everything behind to escape war, persecution, or terror. A shocking 68 million are currently refugees or displaced people. That is equivalent to the population of the world’s 20th largest country. Not one of them chose to live the life they have been forced to follow.

It is not all bad news, however. Churches, individuals, and charities, often supported by personal donations and business or government funding, have been reaching out to refugee communities, making them feel welcome, and helping them acclimatize to their new home. In the midst of recent traumas, they give hope.

In the past four years, Seventh-day Adventist relief entities have followed refugees in their often difficult and dangerous journeys, as they cross continents, deserts, and dangerous seas, and as they are open to abuse from people smugglers and sometimes the inhabitants of the lands they pass through. 

Since 2016, the Adventist Church has told their stories. This year it will tell them again, but with a difference.

The 2019 commemoration will include a documentary film with stories crossing Europe from Finland to Spain. Among the stories: how a church in the United Kingdom runs an afterschool club, giving children a boost; how a community center in Germany provides training skills and even put together a community choir; and how ADRA volunteers in Spain help refugees and migrants integrate into society.

On that special Saturday (Sabbath), the plan is to focus on destination countries — the lands where refugees are settling or want to settle. The documentary tells the stories of how concerned and loving people, communities, churches, and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) are helping people settle in their new communities, learn the language, catch up on education, adapt to new cultures, and learn to value the land they can now call home.

The documentary also shares the stories of two leaders in the Adventist Church, one whose parents escaped the Armenian genocide in the former Ottoman Empire, and the other who, as a 10-year-old, fled with his parents from the work camps in post-World War II Yugoslavia to make a new life in the United States. They demonstrate how refugees can add value to society, leaders said.

Church leaders believe that World Refugee Sabbath and World Refugee Day can be used to commemorate the strength, courage, and perseverance of millions of refugees.

“We can also show how to get involved and care for them in exactly the same way as Christ cared for the foreigner, the outcast, and the dispossessed during His ministry on earth,” they said.

The original version of this story appeared in the Trans-European Division news site.

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