“It is right to provide shelter”

Bishop Dr Tamás Fabiny, speaks to an ecumenical group of church leaders visiting Hungary, 26 September 2015. File Photo: Paul Jeffrey/WCC
Bishop Dr Tamás Fabiny, speaks to an ecumenical group of church leaders visiting Hungary, 26 September 2015. File Photo: Paul Jeffrey/WCC

Focus on refugee crisis at Budapest Diakonia Day sermon

(LWI) – The service began with the clergy placing a diaconal cross in a prominent place. Seven pictures hung from the light-colored wood, illustrating gestures of compassion and assistance. In his sermon, Hungarian Lutheran Bishop Dr Tamás Fabiny emphasized the duty of Christians in particular to help put diakonia into practice.

“Giving support and solving problems are not only matters for political and economic organizations: we have to do our part as well,” Fabiny, said at the service marking Diakonia Day in Budapest. He called for more solidarity with the refugees.

Observed on 25 September annually, Diakonia Day was more relevant this year in view of the refugee crisis and the untiring efforts of church aid agencies to reach out to the refugees mainly from countries in the Middle East and Africa, who have been streaming into Hungary for weeks.

Fabiny is bishop of the Northern Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary, and responsible for the church’s international relations. He is Vice-President of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) for Central Eastern Europe.

In his sermon, he quoted how Isaiah (58:7) describes actions that are pleasing to God: “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?” These words were more important than ever, Fabiny underlined in his sermon. “We must take God’s Word seriously and help all those in need, whether they are homeless, persecuted, migrants or refugees. ‘Only those who cry out for the Jews may sing Gregorian chant,’ as Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said.”

About 200 diaconal and other church staff attended the service in the over 200-year-old Evangelical Lutheran episcopal church at Deák square. International guests included Mr John Damerell, who was on an LWF humanitarian assessment mission with Hungary’s diaconal ministries, Birgit Löwe, board member of Diakonie Bavaria and Rachel Eskesen, country coordinator for Hungary in the Global Mission program of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Bearers of hope

Fabiny referred to a painting reproduced on the first page of the service booklet: the famous scene of Jesus kneeling in front of Judas to wash the feet of his betrayer, the only one without a halo. “May this action be an example to us in 2015 in Hungary and the European Union. We are only credible as congregations and as believers if we engage in diaconal service and provide loving support.”

György Kramer, president of Diakonie Hungary, underlined this in his words of gratitude adding: “Hungarian diaconal ministries are trying harder than ever to find ways to help.”

During the service, Diakonie Hungary also presented prizes to its staff and sponsors, including Diakonie Bavaria. In her response, Löwe underlined the work of inclusion for people with disabilities. The annual watchword from Romans 15:7 “Welcome one another, was no empty phrase, she said. “We must accept ourselves and one another as Christ created us.”

Refugees in Hungary, too, should be received in a spirit of openness to their gifts and not of fear of their difference, Löwe continued. “The challenge lying before us is great, but it is right and good to provide them with shelter. Refugees are also bearers of hope and they bring with them important experience in the field of culture and work from which we can benefit.”

(LWI correspondent Lisa Erzsa Weil wrote the original German story.)