The work being done in Katerini, on the surface, may seem similar to the work being done here in Budapest for refugees. Both ministries started out on a congregational level and have since grown, though in Katerini it happened at an explosive pace. In Budapest the growth has been slow and steady, with the RCH’s refugee ministry staying under the umbrella of the national church until 2014 when Kalunba Nonprofit Ltd was founded. The non-profit is currently in cooperation with the RCH’s Diaconal Office’s Unit for Refugee Integration as their implementing partner. Both churches have faced pushback for their work with people on the move, but neither has backed down from their call to serve those in need. Both organizations have housing and language programs for their beneficiaries, as well as organized community events to give people a chance to socialize.
The biggest difference though is the context in which the work is done.
Greece did not have a choice in whether or not it wanted to accept refugees – they arrived by the boatful’s, emerging from the sea battered and exhausted and defeated, and the Greek people got to work assisting them however they could. Almost at once, support systems that were put in place following the 2012 economic crisis in Greece were adjusted to serve the new population in need.
Hungary, however, has taken every opportunity it can to make it known that they do not want refugees in their country, for a multitude of reasons. This leaves an air of palpable tension among the general population here – fear stoked by many government-funded communications campaigns and outward hostility towards those who are from other parts of the world.
The context in which this type of work is done matters greatly. I see my colleagues here in Hungary struggle some days, but that makes their successes all the more meaningful. Despite all of the challenges, I am thankful to be serving in this context because I am all the more aware of how needed my presence is right now. The Reformed Church in Hungary seeks to take ownership of its work with refugees, and through partnerships with outspoken churches like those in Greece and other areas of the world, there is plenty of support for them in their endeavors.