Global migration focus of Dec. 3 observance
The young couple had a new baby, a sweet little boy, and they were thrilled, happy and scared. He was their first, and they were counting on friends and family to help them figure this parenting thing out.
But, then, word came that the future held death for little children.
The couple was terrified. What could they do? Like parents everywhere, they would do anything to protect their child.
So they left their home, their family and their friends. They left the only life they'd ever known with just a few meager possessions. All they wanted was a safe place to raise their son.
They became refugees, desperate and scared, but determined.
So Mary, Joseph and their son headed west to Egypt. They had to get Jesus – Emmanuel – away from certain danger. They weren't especially excited about going to Egypt. They didn't know what life would be like there. But they knew what it was like at home and it was not good.
Every minute, an average of 20 people worldwide flee their homes because of war, famine and persecution. To prayerfully remember the plight of migrants, Global Migration Sunday (UMCmigration.org) has been set for Dec. 3, the first Sunday of Advent. On this date, all United Methodist churches are asked to gather in prayer and receive an offering dedicated to responding to human suffering caused by migration.
"The facts are staggering," said Thomas Kemper, general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries. "There are more than 65.6 million displaced people in the world today, more than at any time since World War II."
Displaced people, more than half of whom are under 18 years old, are on the move for many reasons and carry many labels, among them migrants and refugees. About one-third of them, 21 million, have been granted official refugee status by the United Nations and have the potential to be settled permanently in a new home through established systems. Others will continue to search for a sense of safety and home for many years to come.
"United Methodists have a long history of walking alongside people impacted by war, violence, economic hardship, persecution and political unrest," said Kemper. "UMCOR (the United Methodist Committee on Relief) was established more than 75 years ago to alleviate suffering without regard to race, creed or gender. United Methodists trust UMCOR will walk alongside families and communities impacted by natural disasters. UMCOR and its partners regularly work with refugees and are eager to expand this work in response to the rapidly growing needs of those suffering as a result of migration."
Special offering on Dec. 3
The Global Migration Sunday Offering, which will support Global Migration Advance #3022144, can deepen United Methodist congregations' understanding of the biblical call to welcome and care for people displaced for a myriad of reasons.
The Global Migration Sunday offering also will provide advocacy and educational materials and grants to help conferences and congregations become better equipped to minister to migrants throughout the world.
The denomination is committed to working ecumenically on the issue, Kemper said. At least 10 percent of the resources raised on Global Migration Sunday will support the refugee resettlement work of partner organization Church World Service.
"Gifts through the church represent life and hope to those hurting from the experience of displacement and homelessness; they provide not only food, shelter and health services but also a sense of caring about their welfare and future," Kemper said. For refugees and other displaced people beyond and within the boundaries of their home countries, these issues are critical.
"Some of the major crises today are among refugees from Syria and Iraq; displaced people in East Africa, notably from South Sudan; in-country refugees in central Africa, including those displaced by civil strife in the Democratic Republic of Congo and floods in Mozambique; and migrants, including children, concentrated along the northern and southern borders of Mexico," Kemper said.
Prepared to help
The United Methodist Church, through UMCOR/Global Ministries and the network of conferences and partner organizations in the United States and globally, has the infrastructure and contacts to carry out such services with compassion and competence, for example:
UMCOR is collaborating with Eastern Orthodox, Muslim and ecumenical Christian agencies to address needs among Syrian and Iraqi refugees. The "Beyond Bethlehem" campaign initiated at Christmas 2015 has been an effective channel for responding to refugees, notably from Syria and Iraq.
Global Ministries serves migrants and migrant workers in Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Germany, Italy and Canada, to name a few. Global Ministries currently has 41 missionaries or two-year Global Mission Fellows working with migrants around the world. More are needed.
In the United States Global Ministries contracts with Church World Service to work with United Methodist congregations to resettle refugees.
The National Justice for Our Neighbors network, founded by UMCOR and now its own corporation with church support, includes 21 mostly congregation-based locations providing professional legal counsel to migrants in the United States.
The 2016 Book of Resolutions statement "Global Migration and the Quest for Justice" declares, "Global migration as a factor in the quest for justice is a major priority of The United Methodist Church as a denomination that is global in its vision, mission and ministries. This concern is rooted in both a biblical mandate for justice and a commitment to the future of the church."
When faced with a challenge, United Methodists learn, pray and respond, often by giving.
"United Methodists are disciples of Jesus Christ who have responded to God's saving, forgiving love," Kemper said. "We believe in the Great Commandment to love God with heart, mind, soul, and strength and neighbor as ourselves, understanding that all people are our neighbors."
Based on reporting from Global Ministries, the United Methodist Communications Press Center and a United Methodist News Service story by Julie Dwyer, general church content editor.