The IAFR Blog

Field notes, perspectives, stories, news & announcements

Going to Bosnia!

Bosnia Herzegovina is in the Balkans of Europe. Click to open in Google Maps.

Why we're headed to Bosnia Herzegovina

Bosnia lies along a complex, difficult, and underserved stretch of the refugee highway – just the kind of place IAFR is looking for!

While it doesn’t get a lot of media attention, Bosnia has been on our radar for years. We’ve spent the past 6 months researching the refugee situation there. It is now time to take a firsthand look.

What are we learning?

Bosnia is recovering from war and hosting refugees.

Andy Pollock is leading our research team. He notes:

"The 1992-1995 war in Bosnia Herzegovina resulted in over 100,000 deaths and produced two million refugees. 25 years later, the country is still recovering. And now it finds itself host to thousands of people that have fled war and persecution in their distant homelands and are determined to press on deeper into Europe before formally requesting asylum. But it isn't easy as surrounding nations have militarized their borders to keep refugees and asylum seekers out."

An epic journey seeking safety and freedom

Men, women, and children are among the refugees and asylum seekers stuck in Bosnia. Most are from Pakistan and Afghanistan. They are on an epic journey in search of safety and freedom. They have put everything on the line only to find that they are unwanted in country after country.

Many people take shelter in abandoned buildings and makeshift shelters. Food, water, heat, and access to proper sanitation facilities are limited. Living conditions are extremely difficult.

In the words of a report released this month:

"...migrants transiting through [Bosnia]... are subject to extreme risks along the route, and become vulnerable to violence, exploitation and abuse." -IOM (click to read the full report)

Followers of Jesus need to show up in places like this.

We plan to establish a team there before the end of the year. Why? Because followers of Jesus and our communities of faith need to show up in tough places like this as a tangible sign of our loving and faithful God.

MaryRuth Davis is on our research team to Bosnia. She has spent the past five months on a US military base serving Afghan refugees. It was her first exposure to people from Afghanistan. She recently commented,

"I’m excited to see another stretch of the refugee highway that many Afghan people are taking in search of safety. I’ve grown to love them and look forward to meeting them in a different context in which they receive far less support and are more vulnerable.”

Please pray for the February research trip.

Would you join with us in prayer as the research team visits Bosnia in early February? Some prayer points include:

- Favor with authorities, refugees, and the people of Bosnia

- Wisdom and discernment to identify where the future ministry should be established

- Safety and health

We look forward to sending you an update this spring.

Partner with us!

We believe that followers of Jesus and their local communities of faith should be at the forefront of welcoming and rehumanizing marginalized people. The God we worship sees, hears, and cares deeply for them. And so must we.

That's why we equip and mobilize the Church to help people survive and recover from forced displacement.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the work of IAFR!

- Tom Albinson

Open Post

Training Christian Leaders in the Middle East

Rachel Uthmann training Christian Leaders in the Middle East

It was humbling to see the faces of the students on Tuesday, recognizing that more than a decade after the outbreak of war in Syria several of the course participants live in contexts where many of their neighbors are refugees. Some students have themselves been forced to flee their homes because of the unrest in the region, yet they turn to help others on the way.

The training was supposed to have a dozen to maybe 16 participants by design, but the staff at the MENA Leadership Center quickly received twice as many requests to join the class. They struggled to say no to people who are doing difficult work in countries that have been totally reordered by waves of forced migration.

MENA course overview
The MENA course overview

Questions Refugees are Asking

Rachel asked the students to name the questions they hear most often from refugees. Their responses were all too familiar, echoing the cries of people stranded with no human solution to their displacement, whether they find themselves in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, or even here in the USA.

Why did God allow this?

Where is God in this mess?

What is our future?

How can we recover from the pain and problems we have now?

Why is there no way forward for us?

Is there any hope?

Their questions sound a lot like the laments in the Bible.

Will the Lord reject forever?

Will he never show his favor again?

Has his unfailing love vanished forever?

Has his promise failed for all time?

Has God forgotten to be merciful?

Has he in anger withheld his compassion?

(Psalm 77:7-9)

Let's pray for refugees and for those who care for them.

Would you join with these precious people in prayer for God’s intervention in the lives of uprooted people, stuck in refugee contexts around the world?

As you do, please remember to pray for those who labor to offer small acts of kindness and welcome and who patiently listen to these cries of pain day in and day out - including our IAFR teammates serving along the refugee highway.

- Post by Rachel Uthmann, IAFR Director of Training

Partner with us!

We believe that followers of Jesus and their local communities of faith should be at the forefront of welcoming and rehumanizing marginalized people. The God we worship sees, hears, and cares deeply for them. And so must we.

That's why we offer training and consulting to churches, agencies, networks, and individuals who care about the welfare of forcibly displaced people.

CLICK HERE to learn More about IAFR Training & Consulting now!

- Rachel Uthmann with Tom Albinson

Open Post

IAFR | 1515 East 66th Street | Minneapolis, MN 55423 | | 612.200.0321

Copyright © 2021 International Association for Refugees. All rights reserved.