World Christian Week: Engaging the Refugee Crisis
By Janai Tedder
The church’s response to the worldwide refugee crisis was the topic for Columbia International University’s annual World Christian Week, Feb. 20-23, emphasizing CIU’s core value of World Evangelization.
The featured speaker was Dr. Paul Sydnor, the European regional director for the International Association for Refugees. Since 1985, Sydnor has helped build church-based ministries among refugee and asylum seekers throughout Europe. He is an active participant of the Refugee Highway Partnership and the Lausanne Global Diaspora Network, striving to work with the local churches to help refugees survive and recover from displacement.
Throughout the week, Sydnor and his team informed students about the global refugee crisis, and organized a refugee simulation experience on The Quad. Meanwhile, students had the opportunity to meet with refugee mission agency representatives.
“My favorite part of the week was meeting the representatives in the Student Center. It was great to learn how I can help refugees in the small ways that I can,” sophomore Kirsten Rasmussen said.
Freshman Ryan McDaniels agreed saying, “It was encouraging to see how they were really seeking to pour into the students here.”
Speaking during the Chapel hour, Sydnor emphasized how to minister to refugees from a biblical perspective.
“God’s purpose is to welcome the nations. His kingdom is inclusive and welcoming. To people who constantly hear that nobody wants them, who have no home or identity, hearing that God welcomes and loves them is transforming,” Sydnor said.
Sydnor encouraged students to connect with refugees by engaging their hearts.
“The hardest thing for a refugee isn’t facing trials or death or discrimination. The hardest thing is not knowing what will happen next,” Sydnor said. “We need to be able to meet people on a human and spiritual level. Sometimes, it is as simple as asking them how they cook rice or having tea with them.”
During Thursday’s Prayer Day, students worshipped in music, prayed for refugees and asked a panel of Sydnor’s colleagues and local refugee workers about their experiences.
Overall, World Christian Week served to inform CIU’s campus about the situations refugees face and how they can get involved locally or overseas.
Liana Gates, a freshman, grew up in China and never had contact or interaction with refugees. She says she learned a lot from Dr. Sydnor and his team.
“I really appreciated getting to learn so much about their work with refugees this week,” Gates said. “I feel more informed on the subject and have a desire and hope to be involved in serving people who are displaced from their homes.”
Hear World Christian Week messages on CIU's podcasts.