Traveling the Path of Refugees

2016. március 30., szerda

International partners from the Presbyterian Church (USA) recently visited the RCH to deepen ecumenical ties between the American and Hungarian churches while tracing the path of refugees through Hungary, Greece and Germany. The delegation, led by the PCUSA Moderator, also consists of representatives from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA), as well as local pastors and leaders from the wider PCUSA denomination, who have come to engage in active support of the work being done in Hungary by the RCH for migrants and asylum seekers.

Members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) were only in Budapest for a few days, but their time here was filled with many opportunities to engage in and learn about the vital work that the RCH is doing to share God’s love with migrants and asylum seekers. The group was led by Heath Rada, the Moderator of the 221st General Assembly of the PCUSA, and also included his wife, Peggy Rada; Laurie Kraus, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Coordinator; Burkhard Paetzold, Regional Liaison for Central Eastern Europe and the Roma; Derek Macleod, Associate Pastor of Outreach at Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; and E. Taylor Stukes, an active and engaged member at Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.

PCUSA Moderator Heath Rada focused mainly on the current refugee crisis during his time in Hungary, with the goal to become better informed from people on the ground in order to make refugee conversations happen within the PCUSA. He wanted to learn from primary sources in Hungary, as well as to act in solidarity with European partner churches as they try to follow Christ's call to welcome strangers. Throughout their journey, Rada’s team members from Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina kept a blog with live updates of their progress, which you can explore here.

Moderator Heath Rada, Peggy Rada and Rev. Aaron Stevens

During their time in Budapest, from 23-24 March, the group met with Dániel Osgyán, CEO of the HRCA; Rev Barnabás Balogh, director of HRCA; Dr István Szabó, presiding Bishop of RCH; Dóra Kanizsai-Nagy, Director of RCH Refugee Ministry; Rev Aaron Stevens, Minister of St Columba’s  Scottish Mission in Budapest; Krisztina Naszádi, Coordinator of HEKS-related Roma work of the RCH; Dr Péter Balla, rector of Károli Gáspár University of RCH; as well as representatives from Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA) and leaders from the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Hungary including Bishop Tamás Fabiny and Rev Vimos Fischl General Secretary of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in order to gain a well-rounded knowledge of the ways in which their donations are actively changing lives in Hungary.

Moderator Rada's blogpost on Good Friday

The group’s schedule was filled with familiar faces, as the PCUSA has a historic partnership with the RCH and its various outreach endeavors. Members of the PCUSA have visited Budapest multiple times over the past few months to meet with both Dóra Kanizsai-Nagy and Rev Aaron Stevens to talk about updates in the Refugee Ministry of the RCH and how that plays out on a congregational level in Rev Stevens’ church. Refugees fleeing conflict zones are now able to gain safe passage to cooperative European member states through resettlement efforts. The NGO offshoot of the Refugee Ministry of the RCH, the Kalunba Social Services Association, is at the forefront of this work in Hungary thanks to an agreement with the Hungarian Office of Immigration and Nationality. The last refugees from those interviewed in 2015 just arrived in March of 2016, bringing the total number of arrivals for the year 2015 to twelve persons. “The program is amazing,” Dóra Kanizsai-Nagy told them with a grin, “It really is safe passage!”

Moderator Heath Rada, Rev Laurie Kraus and Bishop István Szabó

Another familiar face to the group from PCUSA was Dr Péter Balla, rector of Károli Gáspár University of the RCH, who was the official RCH delegate to the PCUSA General Assembly in 2014. Continuing this friendship was of great importance to the Americans, as they spoke with Dr Balla about developments and growth of the Church University in the recent years.

Meeting with Krisztina Naszádi, Coordinator of HEKS-related Roma work of the RCH, was also a high priority to the group, as the PSUSA’s Presbyterian Women mission organization has a long history of supporting the Roma Mission of the RCH. Over the years they have been quite generous in their donations to Roma communities in Subcarpathia and have also coordinated times of intentional prayer that coincide with International Roma Day, on April 8th.  

The visit from PCUSA representatives came to an end all too quickly, after just a few days in Budapest, as the team departed for Greece. E. Taylor Stukeswrote on the group’s blog that they are traveling from Hungary, to Greece, and then on to Germany in order to, “travel the path of the refugees, to remove the distance between us and them, and to bring into focus the human scale of this immense crisis. And, along the way, we hope to learn lessons on the ground about what is needed, what is working, and what is not. Using the knowledge we will gain and share, together we hope to build up a response — a response that is effective, efficient, and guided by God’s will for us and His world.” The RCH wishes them safe travels as they continue this important work.

“For many Syrians who have fled their homeland as the war enters its sixth year, their journey—fraught with desperation, danger and the risk of death—is a via dolorosa, a way of suffering that too often ends in refugee camps, poverty, a reception marked by suspicion rather than welcome, or even a return to the place from which they sought to escape,” said Kraus. “Some fortunate find new safe harbor, welcome and a chance to build a new life.” Read the full article on the website of PC USA.


Article by Kearstin Bailey

Photos: Twitter Presbyterian Church/Myers Park UMC

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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.