Today – June 20 – is World Refugee Day, when the world is called to remember the millions of individuals fleeing their countries as refugees; and the millions more internally displaced people stranded within their country with no home to go to. In the middle of this crisis, across the Communion, Anglicans are responding.
In a statement released today, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, called on the church to lift up these millions of people in their prayers, and reflected on ministry to refugees that he had seen on his travels.
“My heart continues to break for over 68 million men, women and children who have risked their lives to escape conflict, violence and oppression,” he said. “In my prayers, I also remember the extraordinary welcome and support for refugees that I have seen during visits to Sudan, Uganda, Jordan and other countries. In your prayers today, please take some time to remember what it means that God came to us in the vulnerability of a child whose life was in danger.”
He also gave a challenge: “Are we ready to see the face of Jesus in the face of every displaced man, woman and child in the world today?”
The Presiding Bishop of the US-based Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, also released a statement in honour of World Refugee Day, where he called on fellow Episcopalians and Anglicans to take action. He reminded his audience that Christ himself was once a refugee, fleeing persecution and violence, much as the refugees of today. “We as a Church, and as individual Christians and Episcopalians, must be passionately committed to helping the refugees and internally displaced persons of this world.”
The Archbishop of Burundi, Martin Nyaboho, and his people, regularly face the challenge of refugees flocking to Burundi from neighbouring countries. “The history of Burundi has been characterized by internally displaced people and refugees,” he said. “Today we still have thousands of refugees outside the country mainly in Tanzania, Rwanda, DR Congo, Uganda, Zambia, Europe etc,” he said, as he called on the Anglican Communion to pray.
“Pray for a quick and imminent organized repatriation and a consistent programme to accompany the returnees to resettle in their lands. On May 22, 2018, the southern region of Burundi recorded 9,504 returnees. More are still coming back.”
Bishop Grant LeMarquand, the former Area Bishop for the Horn of Africa in the Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, spent three years in Ethiopia with his wife, Wendy. This is another area that is also faced with a constant influx of refugees from sub-Saharan Africa. Many of them are fleeing the civil war in South Sudan.
“My wife, Wendy, and I lived for some years in the middle of a refugee crisis,” he said, “Millions of South Sudanese, their country embroiled in a hideous civil war, fled to neighboring countries or were internally displaced beginning in December 2013. Hundreds of thousands ended up almost literally (well sometimes even ‘literally’) in our backyard in Gambella, Ethiopia.
“These people were hungry, naked, and traumatized. The church – made up of people who are poor themselves – responded in whatever ways we could to bring life into a situation of death.”
Anglicans everywhere are ministering to refugees, on both large and small scales. Churches are taking action, such as St Paul’s Within the Walls in Rome. They manage the Joel Nafuma Refugee Centre, which ministers to roughly 20,000 refugees each year.
All Saints Cathedral, Cairo, founded Refugee Egypt in 1987, where they continue to provide child care, employment, education, medical assistance and more to refugees from across sub-Saharan Africa. Groups like the Mothers’ Union minister to their communities. The Anglican Communion and the Anglican Alliance continue to be in dialogue with interfaith groups, working together to address the refugee crisis.
To close his statement earlier today, the Archbishop of Canterbury also shared a prayer and a hope for the entire world. “As we pray today for all those who have been forced to flee their homes, let’s pray too for wisdom and courage to find sustainable solutions to this ongoing crisis – so that those in greatest need find safety and hope, and those on the frontline of providing help are given the support they need.”