June 14, 2018

Europe to Host World Refugee Sabbath Programs

Inter-European Division and Trans-European Division News

For the third year in a row, Europe will takethe leadin highlighting the plight of refugees in Europe and around the world on World Refugee Sabbath on June 16, 2018. From the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Serbia Community Center in Belgrade, two live programs will feature firsthand accounts from refugees and reports on ADRA and local church activities.

The president of ADRA International, Jonathan Duffy, will be among the guestsand will speak about his recent visit with the Rohingya refugees in Myanmar.

2016 WRS GreeceIn 2016, refugees were pouring through the Belgrade railroad station in the tens of thousands. Pictures of the crowded park near the station filled TV screens around the world. The TV cameras are gone now, and the attention of news organizations has moved elsewhere, but refugees continue to trickle through Serbia, with roughly 5,000 still present in that Eastern European nation. People traffickers are still preying on them.

While fifteen charities were offering assistance at the height of the refugee flow, today ADRA Serbia is one of the few still in action. During the live broadcast on Saturday, 16 June at 10:00 GMT, leaders will visit the ADRA Community Centre, hear the refugee children’s choir, talk to refugees, and hear how staff are making a difference in their lives. ADRA Serbia director Igor Mitrović will share what motivates him in reaching out to this specific group of people.

A second live program, hosted by Corrado Cozzi and Victor Hulbert, communication directors for the Inter-European and Trans-European Division church regions, at 14:00 GMT, will take viewers across Europe and around the world.

The two directors became involved in highlighting the refugee crisis in Europe in 2016 and since then have reported from Greece, Italy, and France. “We could not stand by and just watch,” Cozzi said. “It surely must be our Christian duty to get involved.”

“When I think refugeesI think ‘all human beings,’ ”adds Cozzi.“Since the first humans Adam and Eve were forced out of Eden, all of us are refugees waiting to go back home, the home country God created for us. For me, that’s why the Bible invites us to respect the refugees that it calls ‘strangers’ in Isaiah 56:3, including them also in the commandments.”

In 2016, Cozzi and Hulbert produced a series of reports from Greece that drew attention to the work of ADRA and the charitable organization Adventist Help. Raising awareness not only assisted with fundraising and recruiting volunteers but encouraged other charities to become partners in projects that would make a bigger difference.

They visited a sanctuary church in Castel Volturno, Italy in 2017. While their 2016 report focused on Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghan refugees, the refugees they met in Italy had crossed the Mediterranean Sea from Libya after traveling over part of the Sahara desert.

“I went there [to Italy] with less sympathy than I had for the Syrian refugees,” Hulbert confessed. “However, when I heard their stories, realized the challenges of violence, poverty, or persecution that they faced back at home, my heart opened to them.”

Hulbert was equally impressed by their positive, vibrant Christianity as they worshipped together. Many of them became Christians on the journey or after they arrived in Italy.

“It is astonishing,” said Hulbert. “Today’s businessman can so easily become tomorrow’s refugee. But even in these difficult circumstances, these people are so positive, and have such hope.”

The two programs on June 12 will present a positive worship experience co-sponsored by ADRA, Adventist Review, and the two European Divisions.

Resources and tips for local involvement are available at the ADRA Europe website,including a suggested sermon, worship ideas, and social media stickers. Viewers can follow the live stream broadcaston June 12.

“Take time to tune in as part of your worship service,” Hulbert said.