Usama Hanna (MEOS, Switzerland) believes churches in Switzerland and across Europe “are opening up to integration.” He emphasises the importance of “praying for and with the refugees.”
Many refugees arriving in Europe come from Syria, fleeing the war there. Most of them have a Muslim background, and try to survive in a culture very different from what they left behind.
Usama Hanna (MEOS, Switzerland), explains that, although many refugees’s “desire to integrate is quite weak”, they still have want to be part of “a family, they want to be accepted.” According to Hanna, “the church has a big role in integration, because it can give the love, the acceptance which helps and gives a good environment for refugees to integrate.” He believes that “churches are opening up […] I see glimpses of hope, integration is happening, at least in my community. Question. How do asylum seekers feel when they first arrive to a country in Europe? Answer. When refugees come to Europe, they come with a lot of challenges. They are very hurt, they are very tired and they need time to adjust to the new environment where they come to live in. They first need recognition, to be received. Q. What are some of the challenges for refugees? A. Basically the language, that is a big challenge for refugees when they arrive. Since I came to Switzerland, I realised there are many projects for integration but seldom you see a successful one. I met with many refugees and they are still focus on how much they can get, and their desire to integrate is quite weak. Q. What is the role of the Christian churches? A. I believe the church has a big role in integration, because the church can give love, the acceptance, which helps and gives a good environment for refugees to integrate. Integration means to come together, and we cannot come together unless we are on a common ground.
Usama Hanna, during the interview. / Joel ForsterQ. Can you give us examples of Christians getting involved with people coming form the Arabic world? A. In the last months, something is growing. The churches are opening up, and I experience in our community a work of togetherness. I see glimpses of hope, that integration is happening, at least in my community. I have another relationship with another church in another Canton, where the church adopted an Arabic church. There are good relationships between Arabic speaking and Swiss people there. We have also a small example that started a year ago. With the help of the Swiss Evangelical Alliance, we started a home in Bern, where we host 12 refugees. It is a pilot project of how the church can get involved in the area of integration, by connecting these refugees with the Swiss community. Q. Finally, what first steps should we take to connect with a refugee coming form a Muslim background? A. To connect with the Arabic speaking people or Muslims the idea of family is important. The Arabs want to be in a family, they want to be accepted. If we go back to Ishmael, he was dismissed from the family, and that is why yo see this violent reaction in the Islamic world. There is a key point here: if you receive the people in the family, and care for them, that will open a big door to connect with them. To pray for them, with them, that will open the door too. When you see someone in the street, and you see that he is need, and you just ask him if you could pray for him, this will… I have had these experiences, you fiund people crying when you pray for them, the Holy Spirit touches their hearts. The “Refugees in Europe” series of articles is the fruit of a cooperation between Evangelical Focus, the Refugee Highway Partnership in Europe and the EEA Hope for Europe – Refugees campaign.