The theme of this year’s Refugee Week (19 – 25 June) “with courage let us all combine” is a call for unity and generosity in our welcome of refugees into their new home.
I love that we have a ‘Welcome Home’ sign in the foyer of every Hillsong Church worldwide and that our arms are open wide to embrace everyone that is looking for a place to belong.
This is how I met Bob* and Sarah*; a beautiful couple who happened to join my connect group. They are funny, intelligent and kind. We have vibrant discussions about theology, Farsi poetry and food. Bob makes a mean Persian coal barbecued lamb.
Although they have experienced many injustices and had to flee Iran because of persecution they have a thankful and positive attitude and are so inspiring to be around.
In Iran, Bob was a Clinical Psychologist and also an expert Peugeot technician and the couple lived in a beautiful home where they loved entertaining family and friends. The only tangible memories of their past life are captured in a few home videos of celebrations and special occasions, which Sarah with a wistful look, once showed me.
Knowing what a good life they had, it is hard to understand why they would risk their lives to make the perilous journey to Australia as asylum seekers. As I chatted with them, Bob simply said, “Imagine living in a place where there is no freedom of speech, and where you were imprisoned if you changed your religion”. He asked if I would continue to live there or find a way out.
Getting to know Bob and Sarah, and meeting other refugees (with similar stories) through our CityCare English As a Second Language (ESL) classes, has truly enriched my life. They have hopes and dreams and want to feel like they belong, just like you and me.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
1 John 4:18 (NIV)
(Volunteer CityCare ESL Coordinator, Hills Campus)
*Names have been changed to protect privacy