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Refugee Education in the Worship Service

Did your congregation miss Refugee Sunday this April? World Refugee Day is coming up on June 20. Why not focus on refugees then? 

It's a captive audience...not literally of course but figuratively, most attendees on a Sunday service will stay to the end. It is an amazing opportunity to invite awareness and engagement in the life of refugees!

How foreign the experiences of refugees are to many of us who have known only safety, freedom, and comfort. However some of these marginalized and vulnerable folk have names familiar to many of us since we have been only knee-high!

Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Elijah, Esther, Ezekiel, and Jonah, along with others, in the Old Testament all have experiences of forced travel, loss, and displacement. Then there are the well-known figures of the New Testament: Jesus, Mary, Joseph, members of the early church, Philip, and Peter. Their responses and behaviour may shed light and understanding on the ways we may respond to the millions who are currently displaced in our world.

Honouring and remembering our world's refugees in and through our worship is an opportunity for every church. Each worship experience will be as unique as the congregation's context. It can take a number of directions; you might invite a refugee that your church has sponsored to give a testimony, offer some education about a country's current refugee situation, remember some refugee needs in prayer, and/or hear a message about the importance of being a "neighbour" to refugees and/or the "stranger" in our midst.

Our brothers and sisters in the Presbyterian and Mennonite circles have provided us some very helpful resources for our worship experiences: Staying Rooted in an Uprooted World and And You Invited Me In. World Renew provides some litanies for churches' use as well.

Looking for the most suitable worship resource about refugees for our church's circumstance is our privilege and opportunity. May we pursue and strengthen the love to which we are called for "God and our neighbour".

You might also consider screening a film, such as the ones below.

-Moving to Mars (Karen people in North America)

-The Visitor (refugees in North America)

-How Can a Boy (Karen people of Burma in refugee camps)

Every film that is viewed will likely emphasize different aspects of the refugee experience, but here are a few general reflection questions to get you started. Many suggested films will evoke feelings and knowledge about refugees that is relatively new.

-What surprised you?

-What did you not know earlier?

-What character/scenario really spoke to you?

-What would you like others to know that you learned from the film?

-What common misconception about refugees did the viewing address?

Follow-up:

-What are other possible venues for the showing of this film?

-What are ways to follow-up the learnings of this film with action?

-Name some positive ways to heighten the welcome for refugees in Canada.

Editor's note: Katie is part of the Refugee Justice Task Force, which is producing a toolkit of resources to help congregations to better love their refugee neighbours. One of the main resources in the toolkit will be a new interactive 90-120 minute workshop about refugees in Canada. We'll be piloting it in the summer and early fall, so stay tuned! We will also provide Sunday school materials, film discussion questions, and more. 

[Image: Flickr user Jason Pier in DC]

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