Peacemaker hopes Presbyterians will open their hearts to refugees

Dora Kanizsai-Nagy from Hungary to visit churches this fall

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service
Dora Kanizsai-Nagy. (Photo provided)

Dora Kanizsai-Nagy. (Photo provided)

LOUISVILLE – 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 (RCH) in a number of capacities including the head of the church’s refugee ministry. In 2014, she co-founded Kalunba Social Services Association, an NGO 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 of Hungary provided much of the initial, yet challenging support.”

Kanizsai-Nagy is among the new group of peacemakers who will be visiting churches and schools across the U.S. from September 23 to October 17. She says some of the biggest challenges she faces are helping people adjust and get plugged into a new society.

ACT member Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA) continues to support migrants in Hungary.

ACT member Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA) continues to support migrants in Hungary.

“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 are constantly having to legitimize what we do within and outside of 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 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’s speaking schedule is below:
Sep. 23-28…………..Beaver Butler Presbytery
Sep. 28-Oct. 5………Presbytery of Cincinnati
Oct. 5-10……………..Presbytery of Charlotte
Oct. 10-17……………Presbytery of Santa Fe
Oct. 19-24……………Presbytery of Plains and Peaks


Click here for more information about the 2016 Peacemakers.

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