After two years of not being able to gather, Refugee Highway Partnership (RHP) Europe, the evangelical network of those ministering alongside refugees in Europe and the Middle East, met together in Athens, Greece, 31 January through 4 February. Nearly 450 people gathered in person, with close to 100 joining virtually representing over 47 different nations. The conference focused on the persecuted church and Afghanistan, as many still are reeling from the events of 2021.
RHP Europe was founded out of the World Evangelical Alliance and the European Evangelical Alliance over 20 years ago. Since 2015, the network has grown dramatically and expanded the web of missions organisations, churches, faith-based NGOs, and individuals who share a common passion for seeing the church minister the whole gospel among those who have been forcibly displaced. The network has centred its work on the annual roundtable in early February but is looking to expand its offerings, resources, and networking opportunities throughout the year.
The Roundtable in Athens was by far the largest, most diverse, and busiest conference the network has held. After years of seeking to increase involvement and inclusion of people from a displaced background, over a quarter of attendees this year came from a refugee or displaced background, particularly the Middle East. Their presence deepened and enriched the whole experience as Farsi, and Arabic worship, workshops, materials, testimonies, and plenary talks appropriately broke up the common English language spoken by the majority of participants. The week was packed with a variety of networking and resourcing opportunities, with ten workshops per day, afternoon visits to local ministries and churches, and sight-seeing excursions into historical Athens, all outside of the scheduled plenary sessions and informal networking times.
A number of Baptists were thrilled to join in on the conference, with 11 representatives, from seven different EBF contexts. Though it was overwhelming at times to be gathered with so many people after two years of the pandemic, the feeling in the room was electric. God’s Spirit was tangible as so many people from so many different contexts were able to worship together, pray for each other, and stand in solidarity with those who have been pushed to the margins of European society. It was particularly meaningful to share communion on the final evening and hear the holy murmur of dozens of languages mixed together saying the Lord’s prayer.
Next year the conference will meet from the 6th to the 10th of March 2023 in Naples, Italy. It will have a thematic focus on Africa, encouraging those who minister to displaced peoples from Africa and advocating for stronger representation from African nations in European-wide work.
Photo: Baptist-affiliated attendees from left to right — Danielle Aguilar (All4Aid), Peter Oyugi (BMS), Roger Pearce (BMS), Aaron Ogburn (Pioneer Bible Translators Italy), Christine, Will Cumbia (EBF), Macarena and Eddie Aldape (CBF Spain); Not pictured — Sarah Mhamdi (BMS) and Arthur Brown (BMS).
Will Cumbia, EBF Coordinator for Migration Issues