Do not be afraid.

Psychosocial assistant from Hungarian Interchurch Aid plays with refugee child. © Fekete Dániel/HIA/ACT Alliance

Thoughts wander in the wind. Emotions bubbling up. I don’t know where to start. So much frustration. So much misunderstanding. So much fear.

Back home after four days in Hungary. Many good conversations. Many wonderful encounters. Many challenges. Many wonderful reunions. I feel uplifted by all the wonderful conversations. I am also concerned. I think of the Bible quote, “Do not be afraid!” (Dan 10:19)

Hungary is a country that I have visited many times, both as part of my job and privately. Hungary is a country in Central Europe, part of the former Eastern Bloc. Hungary is a country that has fought for its freedom and its democracy.

Hungary is a country characterised by its beauty, its culture and its pride. I know Hungary as a country of great hospitality and Hungarians with a big and generous heart. Hungarians themselves were forced to flee in the 1950s. In my home country, Sweden, there are many people with Hungarian roots.

Suddenly in 2015, new laws come into force, the borders are closed and the media are filled with images of refugees being treated in an appalling way. International laws and human rights are no longer being complied with.

How can this happen? How can this occur in Europe in 2015? How can people who have fled for their lives be treated like this? It’s incomprehensible to me.

But after four days with many encounters I think of the Bible quote: Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid of the unknown. Do not be afraid of unknown cultures. Do not be afraid to open your hearts to new cultures, new fellow human beings and new challenges. Open your heart to the stranger who knocks on your door.

Let us welcome every single refugee. Let us create a world built on justice and peace. Let us help our fellow humans as we ourselves want to be treated. International laws and human rights must be complied with. When they are not, we must all voice our discontent: stop this!

Let us address the root of the refugee problem: the major problems are not in Europe but in the Middle East. Let us seek a peaceful resolution in the Middle East and especially in Syria, where the war has raged for four years, has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of victims and has forced more than three million people to flee.

I am convinced, in the same way that you and I have a home, that the fleeing man and woman or child feel the same longing to get home, home to peace and freedom, and to be close to their beloved family members and friends. A life as a refugee is a life without dignity; let us create space for everyone.

Let us welcome the stranger as a friend, a friend for life! You and I can reach out our hands, create a moment of harmony and friendship for friends who have fled for their lives, lost contact with their family and, with constant worry about their nearest and dearest and their own survival, are in a foreign country with a foreign language and an unknown culture.

I am not a refugee, but a migrant. I’m a proud Swede. Currently in Switzerland due to work. Previously in Finland as my husband was from there.

I know what it’s like to live in a different culture with a foreign language, missing old and familiar things that make everyday life secure and happy. I know that a simple greeting of “Bonjour Madame” or “Hyvää huomenta” and a smile can make a difference. It feels like home!

Let us build bridges together! Reach out your hand and share a moment of your time and your life!

Read also: The churches walk with refugees in Hungary (WCC Feature by Marianne Ejdersten, 30 September 2015)

About the author :

Marianne Ejdersten was appointed as director for Communication at the World Council of Churches in November 2014. Coming from the Church of Sweden, Ejdersten holds more than twenty years of professional experience in the fields of communication, media, marketing, fundraising and management, both with the churches and international ecumenical organizations.

Ejdersten has authored a number of articles published in several church publications, including the International Review of Mission. She was co-author of The Churches and IT, a publication of the Church of Sweden and a special report titled Women and Internet.

Ejdersten and her team were honoured with the Grand Prix and Gold EPICA 2009 award for conducting the best integrated and interactive campaign "The Prayer" in Europe, as well as the Swedish Publishing Award for reporting in 2012, among other honours she has received for her work in the field of media.

Ejdersten has been the president of the Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation (SweFOR) and vice president for the European branch of the Word Association for Christian Communication.

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