Tuesday, 10 May 2016

The Migration Crises and the Church Response Part 1 - The Challenges

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The Migration Crises and the Church Response Part 1 - The Challenges

Migration has been part of human history. It means the movement of animals or people, especially in large groups, from one part or region to another. In our context, our focus is the migration of humans in large numbers from one part of the globe to another. The nature of these movements can be cross-border where people go outside the boundaries of their country into another country. Sometimes the language of the host countries may be entirely different from the language of the migrants; also their cultures may not have anything in common. This movement can also happen within the boundaries of the political nation. 

There are many reasons why people move which include:

  1. Economic reasons: This is where people move from supposed areas of lack; areas with little or no prospects to places where they feel they will have better and easier opportunities to fulfill their life dreams and meet their needs. Most of the young men that endanger their lives trying to cross the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea into Europe take the risk seeking for ‘greener pastures’. Also, the movement of nomads like the Fulani Herdsmen in search of pastures for their cattle and animals can be categorized as economical. Furthermore, most young northerners have migrated to southern Nigeria in search of better means of livelihood. 
  2. Climatic conditions: When the climate of an area is no more supporting human existence in that area; there is drought and famine for example due to lack of rainfall in a place for a prolonged period, people tend to move away to areas with more favourable climatic conditions.
  3. Insurgency and war: This is another cause of migration. When there is insurgency and war, the social fabrics of the society is destroyed; people who do not want to get involved are forced to move in order to avoid being killed. Insurgency and wars shrink the prospects within a region, hence, people tend to leave the areas of conflict both for the sake of their lives and also to be able to have better opportunities. Millions of people have been displaced in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan because of the insurgency and wars going on in those places. Scattered as refugees, many are in Lebanon, Jordan, Greece, Italy, France, and Germany and all over European countries. Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia have a huge number of refugees who migrated from Somalia into their countries because of the insurgency that have gone on for many decades in that country. In Nigeria, the Boko Haram insurgency has driven people away from their regions to several parts of the country. Only recently most of the refugees that ran into Cameroun and Niger Republic came back to Nigeria because of the progress the army and security outfits are making in ridding those areas in the North East of the insurgency.
  4. Islamic Missionary Strategy: This may come to many as a surprise but resettlement of people from one place to another has been a strategy used by the Islamists over the years in order to establish their presence and turn demography in a particular place of interest to their favour. We have had cases where some people are loaded in some big trucks from a different place and offloaded in some strategic places and they settle in that place as their new home.  As they move, they are accompanied by Islamic preachers and scholars. Islamists are strategists and they think on long-term basis.

We have witnessed an unprecedented high rate of migration of people in this dispensation, especially in the past few years. We have seen whole communities, villages and towns, even ethnic nations move completely away from where they have lived for centuries to either new locations or into IDP (Internally Displaced People) camps. Demography is changing dramatically whether we like it or not. Among those who are moving are Muslims, Christians, nominal people, pagans etc. lifestyles are changing and no matter what we do, this migration is here with us.

This migration is not without some unique challenges, some of which are:
  • Different languages and cultures
  • Fear of economic loss because of scarce resources.
  • Suspicion and lack of trust.
  • Ethnic tensions.
  • For Islamic migrants, resistance to integration causing cultural and political tensions at the long run.
  • Basic needs of food, clothing and housing which makes the migrants vulnerable.
The question is, how prepared is the church to take advantage of this migration to enlarge the Kingdom of God? Are we positioning our churches and ministries to be able to take this great opportunity that the current situation presents before us? No matter what we do as Christian leaders one thing is sure, it can never be business as usual anymore.

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