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Mission and migration j

According to UNHCR, over sixty-five million people were displaced worldwide in 2015 due to persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations.

  • Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin – Mission und Migration
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Migration is a worldwide phenomenon that brings together people of all nations and, of course, may imply difficulties of coexistence. On the other hand there is a big chance especially for the Church to rediscover God’s call of forming one people without borders. In this context the IWM’s research on Mission and Migration is focusing on the challenges and opportunities that arise from migration inside the local churches. How can they answer God’s call and become a ferment of real brotherhood in society?
This represents an increase of almost six million compared to the previous year. Migration is a complex web of different worlds. Legal, political, social, and economic structures surround debates and discussions about migration. Elaine Padilla and Peter C. Phan, however, point out that a theological voice is lacking, and thus have sought to join the conversation with their book Theology of Migration in the Abrahamic Religions. The role and importance of religion cannot be underestimated in the discussion of migration.


Theologically, the Bible refers to many instances of migration; Abraham’s migration is one of the earliest examples. He was instructed by God:

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    “Go away from your country, from your kinship and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you (Gen. 12:1), Abraham left his hometown and entered an unknown territory.”

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Theology of migration
Theologian Daniel G. Moody believes that migration is part of the “spiritual DNA” and the “core” of the Church’s mission. And why? Because Christ is the “archetype” of a migrant. He was a migrant not only when he and his parents had to cross borders to flee danger (Matt. 2:13-15), but also when he was sent by the Father, left his place in heaven, and was called by his Father for a specific purpose (John 6:38-40; Luke 4:43; John 3:17; Phil. 2:6-8).
What are the implications for understanding migration and the mission of the church?
Missionary by nature
The missionary nature of the Church is rooted in the same mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit, which is consistent with the Father’s plan (AG 2). The Father, in union with Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit, has not only called all humanity to share in this unity individually, but also wants to gather those who were once scattered as children of God (Jn 11:52). In this sense, David Bosch describes the task of the local church as “a true community of worship; it is able to welcome outsiders and make them feel at home.” The church, then, is a place for all people and not limited to a particular culture or group. This vocation is not only to respect every person, but every Christian has “the inescapable duty to make himself the neighbor of every person,” whether an elderly person, a migrant worker, a refugee, an abandoned child, or anyone he encounters (GS 27).
Pilgernde Völker
When the Church strives to welcome those who can be considered “outsiders,” she herself knows that she is also an outsider, living as a “pilgrim in a strange land” (LG 7). So if the Church is a sojourner (Heb. 11:13) who has not yet reached her final destination, how does this identity affect the way migrants and refugees are perceived and treated? What kind of theology of migration is needed to adequately participate in the interdisciplinary discussion on migration today? How might a redefinition of the concept of the “other” lead to insights and deeper theological reflection in relation to migration?
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    Padilla, Elaine/Phan, Peter C.: Theology of Migration in the Abrahamic Religions, New York 2016.

Image source: Unsplash