BIBLE SOCIETY NEWS | Hazel Southam, Bible Society UK
Friday 3 July 2015
Hundred of migrants arriving in Austria are being given Bibles, or offered booklets with biblical quotes about hope.
They are being distributed to Christians and others who want them, at detention centres, through local churches and non-governmental organistations.
Dr Jutta Henner, General Secretary of the Bible Society in Austria said that both the Psalms and Old Testament stories of migrants, such as Abraham, Jacob and Job spoke to people.
‘They love the Old Testament,’ she said. ‘They can identify with these stories and see that other people have had the same experiences as them.
‘The Bible,’ she said, ‘is a piece of home to them.’
Austria is the first country not part of the former Soviet bloc that refugees reach as they travel across Europe.
In recent years, Austria has seen the number of migrants seeking asylum rise exponentially.
In 2013 there were 17,000. Last year the number rose to 28,000. This year the figure is set to quadruple, hitting 70,000 by Christmas. Most are from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Austria has a population of just 8 million, and Jutta said that many locals are struggling to adjust to the flow of migrants into the country.
‘People say, “We are a traditional Christian country. We don’t want non-Christians here.”’
She has received hate mail from people opposed to Bible Society’s work with migrants. But, she said, ‘This is the future of our work’.
Father Albert Pongo, a Catholic priest from Ghana, helps distribute Bibles to those who want them, in detention centres.
He said he was ‘deeply saddened’ by the experiences of those he talks to.
He added, ‘If I could, I would give them the necessary documents, so that they can stay here in Austria. But I can’t.
‘What I can do is to listen to them and to talk to them about their lives and their problems. We can read in the Bible together, discuss and speak about what we read. My visits to the detention centre are a different kind of help.’
Please pray with us for the work of the Bible Society in Austria:
- Pray that Jutta, Albert and the team will be able to meet Christians in the camps quickly before they are moved to other detention centres.
- Pray for local Austrians as they adjust to having a growing migrant population in their midst.
- Pray for Austria’s politicians who must deal with an increasingly difficult situation.
You can give to Bible distribution work like this around the world.