This article is part of an ongoing series exploring the response to the global refugee crisis by The Episcopal Church and its ecumenical and interfaith partners. Other articles in the series are available here.
[Episcopal News Service – Rome] As the global refugee crisis intensifies, a long-established Episcopal-led ministry of radical hospitality in the heart of Rome is ever more critical for those escaping war and persecution.
The crypt of St. Paul’s Within the Walls Episcopal Church is home to the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center, where hundreds of refugees can find a breakfast and a host of other resources to survive and to integrate into a new culture.
Because of the sheer numbers of refugees traveling across the Mediterranean Sea to escape war and persecution, many drowning en route, Italy is at the center of the refugee crisis.
Many of The Episcopal Church’s suffragan bishops on Oct. 9 visited the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center to spend time getting to know the refugees and to experience the pivotal role the ministry plays in helping to rebuild their lives and navigate the complicated Italian system as they seek asylum.
The center was dedicated in 1995 and provides sanctuary, advice and assistance for refugees. As well as offering breakfast, the center distributes toiletries and items of clothing, helps with job applications, and provides services for refugees to learn languages and computer skills.
Through a navigator program, a trained cultural mediator accompanies the refugees to asylum hearings or appointments with lawyers and doctors. For more than two years, a group of artisans has been making and selling handicrafts. Each artisan piece is accompanied by a story that advocates and educates about the plight of refugees in Rome. The artisans share proceeds among themselves and donate back to the center.
Episcopal Relief & Development is providing support to enable the center to expand its ministry to serve the increased number of displaced people seeking safety and assistance.
It’s one of many examples of how The Episcopal Church is responding to the current refugee crisis, both throughout Europe and beyond.
Episcopalians in in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary and elsewhere are finding ways to respond to the crisis and welcome the stranger in their communities.
Episcopal Migration Ministries, the refugee resettlement service of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, welcomes refugees to the United States, helping them find safety, security and new lives as American citizens.
(The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is the legal and canonical name under which The Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business and carries out mission.)
Resources for education and response
- Educational webinar, sponsored by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, examines global refugee crisis, 8 p.m. EDT, Oct. 15. Further information is available here.
- The most recent updates from Episcopal Relief & Development about its response to the refugee crisis, as well as ways to donate, are available here.
- Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s statement on refugees and congregational and individual response suggestions are available here.
— Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.