Posted by Kaylee K on Monday, February 8, 2016 Under: Response
Our realization last week was that to answer God’s call we “just need to show up.” Now that we have (we’ve spent a few days in Rome and are now at the European Refugee Roundtable in Sicily), I’m realizing this week’s lesson is that I have two ears and one mouth for a reason and I need to respect that ratio. John and I have so much to learn and it is necessary to keep our American world view to ourselves while we listen to the perspectives and insights of those native to Europe as well as those who have come as asylum seekers. It truly takes discipline (and sometimes the work of the Holy Spirit) to resist offering opinions or passing judgments. But until we have listened, observed and learned for some time, we really don’t have much to offer. There will come a time when our past experience in refugee ministry and in missions will be valuable to the churches and the refugees here in Italy. But we must earn the opportunity to share this experience by first being learners and then becoming friends.
To that end, here are a few things that I was not well-informed about before I showed up and listened. These are things that now will greatly impact how we serve and build relationships moving forward:
- We have to be cautious in how we enter into a different culture and know what "track record" other Americans have had. While we will have the opportunity to establish ourselves and become known as John and Kaylee, we will initially be received as Americans so it is important to understand not only the missional history in Italy but also how others have recently been working and what type of relationships (good, bad and even potentially ugly) may have been established.
- The numbers of refugees/migrants reported as arriving in Italy in the media (approx. 150,000 in 2015) are only reflective of the net-new asylum seekers – most of whom arrive by boat across the Mediterranean. What we now understand is that these numbers do not reflect those asylum seekers who first tried to gain asylum in another EU country. Many who have not been able to get documents elsewhere come by land into Italy as they have heard that Italy is an easier place to get documents. Unfortunately, Italy is also a very tough place to get work and once a refugee has papers from Italy he/she is only eligible to work in Italy. We were told that many asylum seekers as well as those with papers are living on the streets.
- While I have stood firm that people cannot make sweeping claims against all refugees based upon fear and the media reports of the potentially dangerous behavior of some, what I now realize is that it is equally true that we cannot make sweeping positive claims about all because of my personal experience with some. The truth is that refugees are a mixed group of peoples from many different cultures and belief systems who have suffered trauma and are now all forced to be in unstable situations together. Much can happen in such situations. As with any mass of people in a crisis, for some it will bring out the best and for others the worst. While I knew this in my head, it is time for my heart to come along and for me to learn about the truly massive challenges that not only the refugees but also the communities that receive them face and will continue to face well into the future. No more Pollyanna, Kaylee! (What I can still hold onto is that God is in the midst of all of this and I do continue to hear amazing stories of perseverance, resilience, hope and faith….more to come on that in future blogs.)
As the European Refugee Roundtable is only just beginning, I know I will learn much, much more. I’m grateful for this opportunity and will do my best to be a good listener. I’ll let you know how that goes (prayers appreciated)!
In : Response
Tags: refugees europe church