The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
Have you contemplated what it means that the refugee migrants are going to stay in Europe, your country, your town, your village? Or are you deep down still thinking and maybe even hoping that they will go away again?
Have you ever had the experience that you were much relieved when a visitor finally left? Nothing was wrong but you just had had enough. You felt that you would have to deal on a much deeper level with issues than you were emotionally prepared for. And therefore you gladly said, “Goodbye”.
Have you ever seriously given thought to the question if the refugee migrants are going to stay in Europe, your country, your town, your village? Have you contemplated what this really means or are you deep down still thinking and maybe even hoping that they will go away again?
There are many Christians among the refugees who have come.
From traditional churches: They just want to worship as usual and not have much interaction.
From an Evangelical background: They might want to have their own churches but their youth might integrate much faster. Are you ready to receive them?
New converts: Even tabloid newspapers pick up on the fact that many Muslims turn to Christ. Through our contacts we know of many churches where the new migrant converts outnumber the local congregation. It does not always have to be that dramatic. But, if we welcome migrant Christians we are most certainly up for tensions. That is not bad in itself. In fact, we might meet some tensions which healthily challenge our status quo. Are you prepared to deal with these difficulties? Do you know where you can get help from?
And I am sure you have met prejudice and fear in your congregation. That is also normal, because what is strange and foreign to us can make us anxious. Do you give this serious attention?
The majority of the asylum seekers are Muslims. Are you considering how to interact with them? A friend of mine has a goal: every European Christian has a Muslim friend. I have to admit that I have to yet join that club. Most of the Muslims would be delighted to be befriended. They are just normal people and actually more people oriented than many European cultures.
EUROPE AT THE CROSS ROADS
I believe Europe is at a very important point in its history and the church will play a vital role how things will turn out.
Will we as a Church actively engage in integrating these new arrivals? Will we reach out with the love of Christ and be balm on the wounds of the many who hurt? Will we help them to be rooted here? Or will we be among those who wish they would go away again and leave us alone or at least stay in their ghettos?
I invite you to make a difference. It will be a long term project. But it will be worth it. And something rings in my mind that at one point we will hear the voice: Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
Thomas Bucher is the Secretary General of the European Evangelical Alliance.