Tag Archives: Special Focus on Refugees

Special Focus on Refugees: Relating to Muslims: Your New Neighbour

by Janice Loewen, Blumenort EMC

What do I do now? My neighbourhood has changed and I have Muslims living on my street! How can I possibly share my faith with them? These are good questions to ask and ones that more and more people here in Canada are asking. I have lived most of my adult life among Muslims and will relate some thoughts and experiences of how easy it can be to share your faith with your new neighbours.

Don’t hide your faith.

Speak freely about your own faith and love for God without preaching at them. Muslims find it very easy to talk about their faith and God, so do not be alarmed or startled by this. Listen to them and be free to share Bible stories and your own life stories. They expect and assume you will talk about your faith.

Open your home.

Become a genuine friend to them and welcome them into your home. Being hospitable is very important to Muslims. They will easily welcome you into their home and their hope is that you will do the same. Their trust in you will expand as you enter one another’s homes.

Tell stories.

We tend to use a direct approach of repentance, forgiveness and a way to heaven (e.g., The Four Spiritual Laws) while Muslims are much more relational and are more easily moved by stories or illustrations. People from an honour/shame background are not direct when they approach people but rather like Nathan when he confronted David. He used a story to speak indirectly to David but it spoke loudly. (Jesus used many stories and parables to reach His own honour/shame society.) The parable of the Prodigal Son is a good story to share.

Pray with them.

Prayer is something that Muslims expect in a spiritual person so feel free to pray. Ask them what they need prayer for. Don’t be surprised if they pray with their eyes open and their hands lifted palm ward. Share answers to prayer.

Read with them.

They believe in the Books of Moses, the Psalms (the Book of David) and the Gospels although they do not read them. They may argue that these books have been changed but do not let this become an argument; rather, invite them to read through one of the Gospels with you.

So, draw your Muslim friends into your home and into a trusting friendship. Learn to listen without arguing and learn how to respond or challenge in a more indirect way by using stories and object lessons. Do not hesitate to speak of your own faith and your own walk with the Lord and pray with your friends often. When that friendship has been well established then challenge them to read one of the Gospels, or better still, read it with them.

 

Special Focus on Refugees: Resettlement in Canada: New Friends

By Irma Plett, Blumenort EMC

This morning I was sitting in the coffee room at English Class (SEELS), where I volunteer as our refugee family’s language helper, thinking how very privileged I am. Who would ever have imagined, when I joined the Refugee committee in Blumenort last Spring, that my life would be so blessed by these friendships? When I walked into the room, six Muslim women were sitting on the couches, jabbering in Arabic.

In the class, the teacher is known to say, “Speak English, please,” but here, in their coffee room, I often say, “Speak Arabic, please.” I love listening to their chatter, even though I can’t understand. I know how hard they work to learn English, how much they have to concentrate every morning to understand and speak this new language. They need this 15-minute break where they can speak freely. Yet so often they break out of their fluent Arabic into faltering English, just to make sure I am included.

Alima and her mother Nawal* are the most outgoing, fun-loving of the group. They have also been in Canada longest. I forget sometimes that they are still in the beginning stages of language learning until they ask me how to say something in English. One day I told them I would not be at class for a week and Alima said, “Oh no! I need you here. I will miss you.”

On the last day of classes before the Christmas break, Alima invited the teacher and me, and the other refugee women, for lunch at her house during the break. That was some lunch! Wow! Eight women around the table: four Syrians, one Somalian and three Canadians. We had such a wonderful time; we feasted on Syrian food, laughed at attempted English, compared various traditions, and sang “O Canada” into Nawal’s phone so they could all learn the words.

Rasha and Talibah are much more reserved. They don’t say much in a group, but they seem to soak up the camaraderie and the English. These two young women seem to be kindred spirits and wish they lived closer together. (I am looking forward to watching their friendship blossom now that their husbands both have driver’s licences and they can go visit independently of their sponsors.)

The two newest women in the group are young mothers, but I think they are from different religious groups than the rest. I will need to make a point of including them when we meet for the next social event, which they say must be at my house. I do so love this group of women; can’t say how much. I am so privileged to be counted as their friend.

*names have been changed to protect identity

Special Focus on Refugees: Resettlement in Canada: A steep learning curve

This article has been reproduced from the EMC 2017 Annual Report. The full report can be found here.

by Gloria Fehr, Grace Community Church

Our refugee family arrived on December 7, 2016. As a team, we arrived at the airport with excitement, expectations and some trepidation. We had prepared well, we thought. We had contacted MCC and had their refugee coordinator speak to us. Our congregation pledged to help financially and physically. The Christian Reformed Church offered the use of their manse rent free for the first year and we received many donations in furniture and household items. As a team we were less prepared for the emotional and spiritual challenges.

When the eight members of our family walked out of the arrival doors at the Toronto airport we descended on them with happy welcomes and tried to make ourselves understood. They seemed confused and very tired. The family told us later that they had very little information about what would happen after they arrived. They didn’t know there would be someone to meet them at the airport. Janette Wall had some previous experience working with immigrants and coordinated nearly everything, but even with her expertise, our learning curve was very steep. The family came with many questions about how they would survive and why we were involved with them.

After less than one week of knowing the family we realized there was violence in the home. We tried to address this by getting them help from Arabic speaking professionals. However, Child and Family became involved and the family was removed from the home. Finally, we were able to move the violent family member to London, where they could get help, and settled the family back into the home we first acquired for them. The courts are working to reunite the family and it seems to be successful.

The family also began attending our church, which we were so surprised at. They profess to be Muslim, but it seemed that they enjoyed coming to our church. After several months, some friends came to visit the family and the mother no longer attended. Our walk with the family has taught us a few things. We’ve learned some Arabic. We’ve learned about Halal food. We’ve gained new friends. We know more about the Canadian legal system. We also learned that as a team we had different expectations of this process. We had to learn to understand each other better and to work together in highly stressful situations. There were times we felt as though things would “come apart at the seams,” but we came through it, by God’s grace.

More than a year has passed and we have seen the family grow in so many areas. We look forward to seeing what their future in Canada will be like. We hope they will be an asset to Canadian culture. Most of all we hope and pray that they will become Jesus followers. We have seen that every human being is precious and needs to be loved, especially by those of us who have received God’s love.

Special Focus on Refugees: Migrants in Europe

This article has been reproduced from the EMC 2017 Annual Report. The full report can be found here.

by Arley Loewen

About 1.5 million refugees flooded into Europe in 2015. The 2nd highest number of refugees were from Afghanistan. Many Afghan migrants are becoming “Christians,” often with little understanding of Christian faith. When asked why or how they came to faith, they answer:

  • It’s a free religion (a lot say something like this).
  • Islam has so many restrictions.
  • I compared Mohammad to Jesus.
  • I see the kindness of Christians.
  • Christianity is democratic.

Need for teaching

In winter 2017 several Pamir Production teams held Afghan gatherings in 15 different cities in Germany and Switzerland. We also spent time with individuals and families in counselling, encouragement and teaching. In short:

  • German churches are baptizing “converts” and issuing certificates too easily and soon. The German court system is aware of this and apparently is insisting that if Muslims “convert” they must indeed experience the Christian faith! It is ironic that the government is insisting that believers be true disciples!
  • Often a magical communication occurs when Afghans meet real Afghan Christians and hear and see that their own people love the Messiah as Afghans.
  • There is a tremendous need for “in language and in culture” resources and teaching.
  • There are huge needs to help with husband-wife relationships. The restrictive honour-shame cultures no longer help to sustain marriage relationships.
  • When Afghans attend church, other Muslims in the refugee camps frequently harass them. The German police do little to stop this out of fear they will be accused of being considered antiimmigrant and Nazi.

A Nicodemus among the sheikhs?

About 30 devout Muslims joined the Afghan conference for seekers and believers, including an Afghan sheikh who had studied Islamic theology and is well-known among the Shiite community.

After several Afghans gave their testimony of becoming followers of Christ, this man began to explain Islam. Some believers objected and began to harass him. Tension built up, as the two sides polarized. Some of the young Christians felt now was their chance to “get back” at Muslims who have harassed and persecuted them. Voices got louder, as each group insulted the other. It could have easily erupted into something ugly.

The Pamir team took hold of the situation: “We are not here to debate, insult others or put them down. We need to listen to what the sheikh says and learn to respect others’ views. Let him finish his speech. As followers of Jesus, we don’t preach against other religions, but our call is to preach the good news of Jesus and share how God has worked in our lives.”

At the end of the conference some of the Muslim and Christian Afghans embraced each other—something we have never, ever witnessed before.

The next day the sheikh came privately to talk with us. After a lunch together, we went for a walk and had a deep and gracious discussion. At the end he said, “It makes me wonder why my friends’ behaviour changes for the good after they become Christian.”

This sheikh is reading the Word and wants to remain in touch with us.

Pamir Productions is partnering with European ministries to provide healthy discipleship for these Afghan migrants. See http://www.pamirmedia.org and http://www.hope4afghans.com.