A monthly update from Hunter Farrell, director of World Mission, on the impact of Presbyterian mission in the world and the issues that affect mission co-workers, the people we walk with and assist in service to God, and our partners around the globe.
Faithfully fighting oppression
Mission workers gather in Hungary during refugee crisis
A few weeks ago, as world media reported on the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing to Hungary to seek safety in the European Union, Presbyterian mission co-workers from across the Middle East and Europe were gathering in the capital of that eastern European nation, Budapest, for a strategy and training meeting. I arrived a few days before the meeting to see leaders of the Reformed Church in Hungary (RCH), one of our partner churches. RCH ecumenical officer Balazs Odor urged us to go to see the unprecedented number of refugees camped out at Budapest’s Keleti railway station, from which trains depart for Germany and other points west.
On August 29 I accompained Burkhard Paetzold, PC(USA) mission co-worker serving as regional liaison with the churches of central and eastern Europe, to the Keleti train station in Budapest. We saw more than 1,000 refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq—mostly children—sitting or lying on the ground, talking or playing in groups. During the next week, Hungarian authorities tried to discourage more refugees from entering Hungary by refusing to allow refugees to board the trains or by harassing refugees in various ways.
Burkhard explained the Hungarian government’s refusal to welcome refugees. He said that in the last election, one-fifth of the seats of Hungary’s Parliament were won by a neo-Nazi political party, Jobbik. Jobbik has used its newfound political muscle to change the way Hungarians talk about refugees, Jews and gay and lesbian persons. The political party is well-networked with other right-wing European organizations and has launched a fear-based campaign that has haunting similarities to Nazi propaganda of the 1930s and Rwandan Hutu radio campaigns in early 1994.
The way the Reformed Church in Hungary has responded to the country’s growing xenophobia reminds me of the best parts of our Reformed heritage: The RCH has publicly called for all political parties to stop using refugees and other persons in need as pawns in their political debates. It is calling for an end to the “hate language” and is taking an active role in caring for refugees at the Keleti railway station by offering food, water and access to basic medical care, especially for women and children.
Ministering in word and deed, in witness and service—in the public square as well as in the intimate space of a family in need—in a way that includes all in the household of God is a hallmark of Reformed mission that Presbyterians have practiced for years. I give thanks to God for partners like the Reformed Church in Hungary who are willing to stand strong against the political winds of their context to speak the truth that all people are created in the image of God.
As elections approach and the political winds in our country begin to blow more strongly against refugees and new immigrants, participating in God’s mission means advocating for the sojourners among us:
You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pledge. Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this. (Deuteronomy 24:17–18)
Mission Matters Archives
August 2015 - The Difference Was Like Night and Day
July 2015 - What Would It Take to Change the World? Part III
June 2015 - What Would It Take to Change the World? Part II
May 2015 - Mission Co-workers Need Your Prayers and Financial Support
April 2015 - What Would It Take to Change the World?
March 2015 - The Church You Grew Up In No Longer Exists
Great piece and great work, Hunter. Thank you for visiting both our partner and our mission co-workers.
Hunter, thanks for lifting up the work and concern of the Hungarian Reformed Church. Burkhardt is doing an excellent job as a bridge person helping the PCUSA to understand the politics around in Hungary around the refugee crisis. Thanks for this article.
We love to hear ways to engage more young people in mission as a way to draw them closer to the church. they really do seem to have to have something meaningful to do. They do not come to church if there is nothing for them to do. Thanks for your great work.
thanks Hunter for great message!
Thank you my dear Brother for the Work you and the World Mission Board are doing. May the Lord continue to open many new doors for Us. Amen.