Human Connections

2015. szeptember 30., szerda

In the recent weeks the delegation of the Presbyterian Church in Canada has visited partner churches in Romania, Ukraine and Hungary. In the framework of its program in Hungary, the delegation headed by Moderator Rev Karen Horst, also visitied the St Columba's Church of Scotland in Budapest.

Hungary has been running a billboard campaign—in Hungarian, which the refugees couldn’t possibly understand—with slogans like, “If you come to Hungary, don’t take the jobs of Hungarians,” and, “If you come to Hungary, you have to keep our laws.”

Critics complain the campaign is geared towards Hungarians to give them a sense of security and to also bias their opinion.

Rev. Aaron Stevens, senior minister at St. Columba Scottish Church, Budapest, worries the campaign is speaking to Hungarian’s anxieties, but also acknowledges that many people have been very helpful and caring over the past summer.

“Hungarians saw these refugees at the train station and wondered what was going on. They asked them questions. They saw the registration documents in Hungarian. That was just ordinary people making human connections.

“On Friday morning, what I like to call The Friday because it was the largest grouping before the refugees were moved along and the borders were closed, it was very, very quiet at the Keleti train station. That is not normally a quiet place. But, the refugees were sleeping and the people going to work kept very quiet to let them rest.

“It is always a matter of human connections. Wherever there are these connections there are opportunities for people to get to know each other and overcome their fears. But, what the government is doing, with closing the borders, and the fence, and this campaign, is reduce the opportunities for any future human connections.”

St. Columba has been very involved in refugee issues for a long time. A mission that recently ran into funding roadblocks was housed at the church for a long time. And the congregation converted their sanctuary space into an overnight hostel for refugees. Stevens is convinced this refugee advocacy has increased the number of people coming to worship and participating in the church. “I think people are impressed by a congregation being the church in the world. And I am happy to tell all ministers about this.”

St. Columba is an English-speaking Presbyterian church in Budapest with an international congregation, not all of whom come from Presbyterian backgrounds.

Despite the valiant efforts of congregations like St. Columba to make human connections and bridge the cultural gaps, there is a discernible anxiety amongst many Hungarians.

At the Austrian border I met a few volunteers who cheerfully handed out food, water, clothing, shoes to the thousands of refugees passing through. In between trainloads they wondered out loud how Europe could possibly absorb this many people.

That’s a common anxiety, not only in Hungary. I met two women in their 70s who had driven down from Norway to volunteer at the border. With Nordic fierceness they worked intensely, one at a food table and the other handing out shoes, with grandmotherly care finding the right fit for little children. Their compassion for the refugees could not be questioned. Still, at the end of one shift, one asked the ubiquitous question: Can Europe really absorb all these people?

So, when Hungarian government spokesperson Zoltan Kovacs states in a radio interview, “Hungary wants to protect its borders, not close them,” he touches upon more than just government policy. He touches on a deep struggle within many Hungarians. They want to make human connections but they don’t want to deal with long-term consequences of integrations.

Which might make Haji Khan’s tertiary dreams impossible. Khan left Peshawar, Pakistan, three years ago. He spent time in refugee camps in Turkey. He has been in Hungary, at the Vamoszabadi refugee camp and registration centre for nine months.

He has had two interviews and he is hoping Hungary will give him his refugee papers. Hungary was not on his horizon when he started his quest. But he’s tired. And Hungary looks like a good country where children go to school and it is safe.

Andrew Faiz

Source:Presbyterian Record

Headed by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, the delegation included Rick Horst former Moderator, Gynis Williams Associate Secretary for International Ministries and Andrew Faiz managing editor of the Presbyterian Record.







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Our church through American eyes

We encourage you to read our  former GM intern Kearstin Bailey's blog about her time, spent in Hungary.