EBF Christmas Message
EBF Christmas Message
Goodness is stronger than evil;
Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness;
Life is stronger than death;
Victory is ours through Him who loves us.
These words from a prayer written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu from South Africa, that also appear on the EBF Christmas card, have become especially meaningful to us this Advent 2015. When the news of the terrorist attacks in Paris came through some of us were attending EBF Anti-Trafficking Conference in Kungsör in Sweden. The previous day the worship group had led us in a sung version of the words and when we learned of the horrific events in Paris we quietly sang them again. I sent the words to the French Baptist Federation and they put them on their website as they responded to the suffering and grief of the injured and bereaved, and indeed the whole nation of France.
They are words rooted in the suffering and the struggle for justice in South Africa during the apartheid era. This Advent they signal hope in the deliverance of our God that is born from the depths of suffering and situations of darkness in our region of Europe, Middle East and Central Asia.
There is the continuing threat of terrorism that struck with such deadly force in Paris but is also is such a constant feature of life for the nations of the Middle East, and our brothers and sisters in Christ there.
There is the refugee crisis in Europe that we spent time discussing at our EBF Council in Sofia, Bulgaria in September. As the refugees fleeing violence, destruction and death in Syria and elsewhere move through Europe our Baptist churches are joining with others to reach out to them to 'love the stranger' in Jesus' name. Last month I visited the Croatian transit camp at Slovanski Brod. It was a good example of co-operation of government authorities, and NGOs working together to meet the humanitarian needs of about 5000 refugees that p[ass through Croatia every 24-48 hours. I felt proud of our Croatian Baptists who, remembering their own experience of being refugees from war 20 years ago, responded so quickly and effectively. With resources from other parts of the Baptist world they have won a respected position in the camp as they help to meet the material and spiritual needs of refugees.
That story could be repeated in the response of our churches in other places - for example Italy, Macedonia, Serbia, Austria, Germany, Sweden, UK, as well as the ongoing care for refugees in camps in Jordan and Lebanon. The task of the EBF through the special EBF Refugee Crisis Working Group set up at the Council is to map the situation and try to do some co-ordination especially for funding needs. You are invited to look at the page on the EBF Website marked 'Migration Crisis' and there you will read an excellent report complied by the EBF Mission and Development Consultant, Rupen Das about how our Unions and churches are responding in the different countries:
Where there is a need for funding the Unions are invited to submit costed proposals to Helle Liht at the EBF Office. Some donations are already coming in and we are very grateful for these. But with restrictions increasingly imposed on the flow of refugees into Germany we foresee many more needs developing this winter 'down the line' as perhaps some of the transit camps have to cope with more refugees for longer periods.
Churches often have special offerings at Chirtsmas. Can I suggest that you might encourage your Unions and churches to give to the EBF Refugee Crisis Appeal so that we have the resources to get funds quickly to where they are needed? You can do this by sending donations to the EBF bank account: www.ebf.org/contact
We also do not forget the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine where 1.6 million people have become Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The Baptist Union of Ukraine, again with help from Rupen Das, is co-ordinting the efforts of Baptists to minister to the social, material and spiritual needs of victims of the conflict.
Finally, for those of you who did not manage to come to Sofia in September let me say that we had a marvellous EBF Council that also included the opening of the wonderful Sofia Baptist Centre. We experienced a deep sense of coming together as one to listen to God as to how as followers of Christ we can best respond to the deep spiritual and practical challenges in our region at the moment. We elected a new President, Asatur Nahapetyan from Armenia, and a new Vice-Presdeint, Jenni Entrican from Great Britain. Please continue to hold them and all of us who work on your behalf in the EBF in your prayers.
Next year's EBF Council will be from September 28 - October 1 in the beautiful city of Tallinn in Estonia. Book the dates and plan to be with us.
So it is in not in any triumphalist sense, but rather with a quiet confidence and hope in the God who comes to us again in Jesus Christ, that we echo Desmond Tutu's words this Advent, and especially the last line, that 'victory is ours through him who loves us!'.
I wish you joy and peace in your hearts this Advent and Christmas time.