“I’m so grateful to the Austrian Bible Society and its donors for supporting our work among refugees. Without your knowledge and resources, your willingness, responsiveness and generosity, we wouldn’t be able to carry out this really important part of our work. Without you, we wouldn’t be able to give the many refugees who come to us anything meaningful to accompany them on their journey through life. Thanks to you, the Book goes with them – and the one who is spoken of in the Book.”
The mass arrivals of refugees in Italy have been attracting a lot of media attention recently, but many other countries are also facing the challenge of receiving and caring for refugees. In Austria, the ‘population of concern’ (refugees and asylum seekers) numbers almost 79,000, according to the UNHCR. The Austrian Bible Society has a long-running project to supply Bibles to these people.
The words above are from Rt Rev Dr Gerold Lehner, Bishop of the Lutheran diocese of Upper Austria. The Bible Society has been supplying some churches in his diocese with Bibles in Farsi. He has witnessed at first-hand the comfort that refugees feel from reading God’s Word in their own language. In a letter of thanks to the Society, he offered three snapshots that show just how important this ministry is.
It’s Sunday morning in the Lutheran church at Attersee. The congregation has gathered for a service. Everything is going as usual. However, during the reading of the Bible an unusual sound can be heard. The passage is being read in both German and Farsi. Why? Because some people here have come from far away. They fled terrible circumstances, hardship and threats of violence. Many got to know Christianity in their home country or met people here who shared their faith. Now they want to know more. Some Iranians are sitting at the back. They listen to the reading in Farsi and follow in their own Bibles. The Bible Society has provided us with beautiful black Bibles that have become a comforting part of their lives. This book goes with them on their journey through life.
It’s Saturday afternoon in the Lutheran church in Timelkam. The church is open. Inside, a baptism preparation course is under way. Pastor Hans Hubmer is explaining the basics of the Christian faith. Amir S. translates and explains. Again, the small black book is there. They look up the Bible passages and read them for themselves. Afterwards there is time for fellowship. There is coffee and cake. Margit Hubmer, the pastor’s wife, is there to listen and to help them with their many concerns.
At the accommodation centre for asylum seekers, M. is lying on his bed. His situation is uncertain. Where will his journey end? Is this country prepared to grant him asylum? Can he start a new life here? He takes the beautiful black Bible into his hands and starts reading. The language (Farsi) and letters (Arabic) are familiar to him. However, what the book speaks about is new to him. The parable of the house that survives the storm because it is built on a rock speaks to him. He knows what a storm means and what damage it causes. And when he turns off his light at night, the beautiful black book is beside him on his bedside table.
The Austrian Bible Society provides thousands of Scriptures in many different languages for free distribution among refugees each year. Please pray for funding for this vital work.