Mission co-workers believe protecting human rights is a global mission
February 16, 2021
As COVID-19 circles the globe, mission co-workers the Rev. Ryan and Alethia White in Germany believe that working together, in our respective corners of the world, can improve protection for human rights everywhere.
The Whites have served with the Iranian Presbyterian Church in Berlin since 2013, working with refugees and seeing firsthand how religious and political organizations can make a difference.
Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, millions of Persian-speaking people have migrated to the United States, Europe and other areas of the world. Well over 100,000 Iranians have settled in Germany. The Iranian Presbyterian Church in Berlin, in addition to providing worship opportunities in Farsi, helps Iranian refugees and immigrants begin a new life in Germany. Ryan White serves as the congregation’s pastor. He and Alethia White work with a pastor and social worker of the congregation to offer pastoral care to those who are now making Germany their home. They also collaborate with ecumenical partners to provide training and continuing education opportunities for leaders of the Presbyterian Church in Iran.
In October 2019, the Whites visited the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos and witnessed the terrible conditions people are forced to endure there, including overcrowding, fires, riots and violence.
“People continue to arrive seeking shelter and a chance to live life fairly,” Alethia White said. “We ask ourselves, ‘What if it were our family in that situation?’ That simple question helps to do away with the violence notion of ‘us and them.’ There is no ‘them.’ There is only ‘all of us.’”
Alethia White participated in two online conferences in July on human rights and the role of the church. The discussions were about refugee protections and how political and religious institutions can make a difference. It was a stark reminder, she said, that human rights are being swept aside everywhere and are in need of much greater protection.
“It was also a reminder that there are similarities between what is happening on the European borders and the U.S. border, and there is great concern that there is not enough regard for the people being mistreated at those borders,” she said. “As parents, we cannot even imagine being separated from our children and then turned back from the border while they are detained. Or being on an inflatable boat in the waters between Turkey and Greece and then being forcibly pushed back by border guards. How can we each help heal the rifts in our global human family?”
“One way is to actively support organizations working to protect refugees. Others are speaking out against racism or offering a smile to a stranger passing on the street,” she said. “Let’s please work together, each in our own corner of the world, to knit each other together rather than tear each other apart.”
In Berlin, the White family and their community have weathered the virus for the last several months and is now able to enjoy a new era of relaxed regulations and limited ability to socialize.
“The current situation here in Berlin is much more relaxed than a few months ago. These systems have been mostly respected, which seems to have helped keep infections relatively low for the time being,” she said. “Our church gatherings are still being conducted online for now, and we continue to be thankful that this medium allows us all to come together to share prayers and be creative in our sense of community together. Churches are allowed to meet in person again, but only with partial capacity indoors and with everyone following current regulations.”
She hopes meeting in person will be an option in the coming months. But the process of online worship has worked well so far and most of the congregation prefers that method, for the moment, for everyone’s safety and protection.
“We will never take freedom of movement and access to the outdoors for granted again after the last few months,” she said. “Freedom of movement, safety, and expectation of fair treatment? These are all things many have the luxury of taking for granted, while others have to make impossible choices in the hope of attaining such securities.”
Kathy Melvin, Director of Mission Communications, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: Protecting Human Rights
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
God of all nations and peoples, we pray for those who labor for global peace and security, human rights and dignity, justice and order, and ever-improving standards of life. Amen.