all created in god's image
Around the world, over 80 million people have no place to call home. Persecution and terror have forced these refugees and internally displaced persons to flee, leaving everything behind. They have lost family members, friends, possessions and the familiar places of their homeland.
Even as the attention of the world was fixed on the global Covid-19 pandemic, millions of people were newly uprooted from their homes and homelands in the past year.
While the number of refugees and asylum seekers has doubled in the past 10 years, humanitarian space is shrinking. An increasing number of countries are pulling up the drawbridge and fortifying their borders to keep desperate people out.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” – Matthew 25:35-36
“Some wandered in desert wastelands,
finding no way to a city where they could settle.
They were hungry and thirsty,
and their lives ebbed away.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
to a city where they could settle.” – Psalm 107:4-7
world refugee sunday
In 2011, 200 people from 65 countries convened in Turkey for a historic consultation under the banner of the World Evangelical Alliance. The discussions were directed to issues that most evangelicals had not looked at in depth – including the issue of refugees. With a sense of calling to share the love and compassion of God for the forcibly displaced people throughout the history – including the Biblical times, the consultation gave birth to Refugee Highway Partnership (RHP). Today, RHP exists as a collaborative global voice to initiate, connect and equip Christians for effective ministry with forcibly displaced people.
A few years later, efforts to mobilize churches around the world to care for refugees led to the birth of a prayer movement, which was formalized into World Refugee Sunday in 2008. The two consecutive Sundays were selected around the United Nation’s World Refugee Day (June 20), and churches are encouraged to raise prayers and awareness for the forcibly displaced.
Initially participated by just about 25 countries, World Refugee Sunday s has grown to be a global movement with over 90 countries joining in 2018.
embrace the excluded
Under the theme “Embrace”, this year’s World Refugee Sunday focuses on the Christian calling to embrace those excluded, just as Jesus received the excluded. For thousands of years, the leper community has been avoided by society (Leviticus 13:45-46), but Jesus didn’t shy away from hugging and healing them. When John’s disciples approached him to find out whether he was the one they had been waiting for, he replied, “Go back to John. Tell him what you have seen and heard. Blind people receive sight. Disabled people walk. Those who have skin diseases are healed. Deaf people hear. Those who are dead are raised to life. And the good news is preached to those who are poor.” (Luke 7:20-23) This same calling is for his disciples today, also in relation to other people excluded from society, such as refugees.
Over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have been discouraged from the loving gestures of hugging, shaking hands or even going closer to others. In a world where we are asked to “distance” ourselves from one another in order to protect one another, what does it look like to embrace the excluded?
World Refugee Sunday is an opportunity to join churches around the world as we focus our hearts, minds, and prayers on God’s heart for refugees.
Displaced people all over the world are at heightened risk as the coronavirus pandemic spreads. Countries have tightened their borders, this has restricted the refugee resettlements. Displaced people are potentially at increased risk of contracting diseases, including COVID-19, because they live in overcrowded conditions without access to basic sanitation.
We invite you to participate in remembering those who are persecuted and oppressed around the world. In the current COVID climate, it will be difficult to physically gather for Refugee Sunday events. We suggest you use this time of social distancing for our individual prayer, reflection and response.