In September of 2015, thousands of Syrian refugees found themselves stranded at a Budapest train station, making their way across Hungary toward the Austrian border. For most, the travel had been difficult, as they were turned away from other countries or settled in communities that were not very welcoming.
The mass arrival in Budapest has had an impact on Dora Kanizsai-Nagy. Since 2008 she’s worked with the Reformed Church in Hungary in a number of capacities, including the head of the church’s refugee ministry. In 2014, she cofounded Kalunba Social Services Association, a nongovernmental organization that works with refugees in Budapest.
“Up until last year’s arrival, few denominations were involved with the refugees because society was not aware of them,” she said. “For almost 10 years, the Reformed Church in Hungary provided much of the initial yet challenging support.”
Kanizsai-Nagy is among the new group of International Peacemakers who will be visiting churches and schools across the United States through October 17. She says some of the biggest challenges she faces are helping people adjust and get plugged into a new society.
“There has been a growing xenophobia and Islamophobia over the past year,” she said. “Reconciliation, healing from trauma, and finding hope and a future have been extremely challenging. We constantly have to legitimize what we do within and outside the church. Maintaining a good and committed team is difficult when the future of your organization is always at stake.”
Kanizsai-Nagy and her team work to provide housing assistance, employment, education, language lessons, and other community-building opportunities for both short- and long-term needs. But despite the challenges she faces, there are rewards.
“We are seeing the daily growth of people, not only in language understanding, but growth in trust, friendship, healing from fears, prejudice, and misconceptions. These come from both society and the refugees as well,” she said.
Kanizsai-Nagy is hopeful that American congregations will be open to what she has to say.
“I will talk about the regulations in the asylum system, the movement of people, reasons and ways, as well as life in Hungary, life in the church, and the joys and fruits in ministry,” she said. “We want them to understand the growth of people within ministry and our hopes and future plans.”
Kanizsai-Nagy is optimistic for an “increasing connectedness” with American congregations that could result in joint summer of service programs, an exchange of ideas, and a better understanding of the global situation and the hearts of refugees.
“I’m very fearful to leave my people for such a long time, in a time of turmoil, but I’m more than thankful to meet many people and be connected and exchange, to be part of this global family, to bring my people’s greetings to you, and yours to us,” she said. “I hope to share our future plans for a sustainable ministry and have you join us in making it possible.”
Kanizsai-Nagy will speak on these dates at the following presbyteries:
September 28–October 5 Presbytery of Cincinnati
October 5–10 Presbytery of Charlotte
October 10–17 Presbytery of Santa Fe
October 19–24 Presbytery of Plains and Peaks
Rick Jones, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: Hungary
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
Eternal God, you call us to love our neighbors, to reach out to the least of our brothers and sisters, and we are grateful that you show us ways to serve you. Bless us and challenge us to love as you have loved us; through Christ our Lord. Amen.