Welcome the stranger: act boldly on World Refugee Day


By Thomas Kemper
June 20, 2019 | ATLANTA

World Refugee Day, June 20, remembers and honors the families and individuals made homeless by disasters, wars, poverty and intolerance around the world, although with global migrants standing at a record 70.8 million in 2019, every day is World Refugee Day.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and Global Ministries invites all Methodists and others of goodwill to not only remember and honor refugees, but to respond to their needs and aspirations. Every day, people are running in fear. Every day, people are looking for safety and new places to call home. Every day, people are looking for hope and ways to rebuild their lives. Every day, we are called to welcome the stranger.

From its origins in 1940, UMCOR has alleviated “suffering without regard to race or creed,” starting with the refugees displaced by World War II in Asia and Europe. Since that time, UMCOR has intentionally helped the most vulnerable of this world find hope. UMCOR partners with churches that assist migrants of all types with the right to stay, the right to safe passage, the right to welcome and the right to return with dignity. More than 25 global missionaries and Global Mission Fellows are engaged in migrant and refugee ministries around the world.

This year on World Refugee Day, we lift up those who have found hope only in the daunting decision to leave home for the sake of life and a future. We honor their courage, tenacity and adaptability as they seek new lives for themselves as strangers in new lands.

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This is not a day of celebration; it is a day of awareness and action. We call upon the people of The United Methodist Church to:


  • Pray for refugees.
  • Find ways to welcome refugees and asylees in countries that receive them.
  • Encourage all governments to order immigration policies and practices in ways that are humane, predictable and transparent.
  • Give to the Global Migration Advance (#3022144), which supports refugees and migrants of all types.

Now more than ever, the church needs to act boldly not only to welcome the stranger but also to change the structures and systems of power that seek to exclude and divide. For instance, we need to recognize obstacles to the welfare of refugees and work to prevent the government of the United States from dismantling its capacity to resettle refugees and receive people seeking asylum.

Caring for the stranger is at the heart of Christian ministry, a part of who we are as a church; it is transforming, noble service in the name of Jesus Christ.

We invite you and your congregation or community to let your love for global refugee neighbors openly flow on World Refugee Day 2019.

Following are some resources which you might find useful in this endeavor:

Church World Service (CWS) https://cwsglobal.org/
General Board of Church and Society https://www.umcjustice.org/search?q=refugees
National Justice for Our Neighbors (NJFON) http://njfon.org

Thomas Kemper is the general secretary of Global Ministries.

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