Who is my refugee neighbor? Baptist leaders want you to know


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- As Southern Baptists care for the needs of refugees, a desire for collaboration among relief efforts is generating active conversation among mission leaders.

Officials at the United Nations say more than 270 million people are displaced in some way around the world. Leaders of local, state, national and international Baptist churches and agencies are working to create strategies for education, communication, relief and evangelism.

In an effort to refine care and outreach, mission leaders are working to help Southern Baptists understand who these displaced people are.

“Who’s our neighbor and what’s our responsibility?” asked Terry Sharp, International Mission Board network director. The IMB is at work to help Christians understand how to relate to displaced people, build relationships with them and look for ways to share the gospel.


Sharp said while the government has a significant role to play in immigration policy, Christians interested in being obedient to the Great Commission have a great opportunity to be good neighbors.


“We’re calling Southern Baptists to be the hands and feet of Christ, to show and share the love of Jesus,” Sharp said.


John Barnett, missions strategist for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, has developed four broad categories of displaced people – forcibly displaced, vulnerably displaced, purposefully displaced and naturally displaced.


Barnett said forcibly displaced people may or may not cross a border, but they cannot go home. They may be asylum seekers due to political reasons or they may be refugees because of war or terrorism. Statistics show  about 70.8 million people forcibly displaced in the world.


Another category he uses is vulnerably displaced. These people have been taken against their will to be trafficked into some sort of slavery. People who are homeless or children who have been orphaned also fit into this category. Officials report around 40.3 million people are displaced because of some sort of enslavement including human trafficking.


The third category is different as these people are purposefully displaced. They are students who’ve left their home country to gain education or vocation. They may also be immigrants who are looking for a better life in another country or the migrant worker looking to send a portion of their wages to family in their home country.


Finally, Barnett said there are people who are naturally displaced. These people have suffered great loss through natural disaster, famine or widespread disease. These people can’t go home because they’ve lost their homes.


“This is such an important issue,” Barnett said. “What we really need is a discussion on how we work together to start engaging this issue on a global scale as God is moving the nations all over the world.”


An initial information meeting for local church leaders and state, national and international denomination leaders took place in Louisville, Ky., on October 31, 2019. A second meeting for leaders is scheduled for April 23 in Atlanta.


This is the second article in a series of three. The first article introduces the need for collaboration in the care of displaced people. The final article will share specific ministry taking place to reach displaced people.


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