Fear and hope in ‘postmodern, post-Christian, post-pretty-well-everything’ Europe
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — “I’m worried about our continent,” Robert Limb…
In an act of violence echoing the July 14 attack in Nice, France, a semi-truck driver plowed through a Christmas market in the German capital Monday night, killing 12 people and wounding at least 45. Police initially identified a migrant from Pakistan as a suspect, though there’s some confusion about his role.
(UPDATE: Police have released the suspect due to lack of evidence. Meanwhile, the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack, the BBC reports.)
German authorities described the attack as a probable act of terrorism as Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans not to give in to fear.
“I know it would be especially hard to bear for all of us if it should be confirmed that the person who committed this act sought protection and asylum in Germany,” Merkel said, as reported in The Wall Street Journal . “This would be especially despicable toward the many, many Germans who are daily engaged in helping refugees, and toward the many, many people who truly need this protection and strive to integrate themselves into our country.”
Rudiger and Michaela Renken are among the Germans helping refugees from the Middle East. The longtime members of a Church of Christ in Bremen and their fellow Christians reach out to refugees who live in an informal settlement near their church building.
Christians at a ministry center in Athens, Greece, serve meals to refugees. Church members who attended the recent Refugee Ministry Workshop toured the ministry center and helped serve the refugees. (PHOTO BY VIVI VITALONE)
“We have started a language school, and some church members have already invited some refugees to their homes,” Rudiger Breman told The Christian Chronicle . “Relationships are growing.”
He spoke to Chronicle correspondent Vivi Vitalone in Athens, Greece, during the recent Refugee Ministry Workshop, hosted by the Glyfada Church of Christ in Athens and sponsored by Partners in Progress, a church-supported nonprofit. About 100 elders, ministers and church members from around the world attended.
Many, including Rudiger Breman came “to understand how to make the next step and introduce (the refugees) to Christ.” See “Refugees and angels,” our coverage of the Refugee Ministry Workshop in Athens. Christmas markets are a holiday tradition across Europe. Bailey McBride, the Chronicle’s editor emeritus, attended the recent Euro American Retreat in Germany — a gathering of church members from both sides of the Atlantic — and is in Vienna, Austria, working with Churches of Christ. He’s been to at least a dozen Christmas markets in Europe.
“The Christmas markets are part of the celebration,” McBride said in a message from Vienna. “Most open the last weekend of November. They have lots of toys for children, jewelry, clothing and decorations for homes and trees. The crowds increase each week. The busiest time comes a week before Christmas.”
Reggy Hiller gives Arabic New Testaments to refugees from the Middle East in 2015. (PHOTO PROVIDED)
Reggy Hiller, a church member in Vienna, said that the latest attack will not deter her from enjoying her city’s Christmas markets — or from proclaiming the Gospel to refugees.
Hiller and fellow church members have conducted Bible studies with refugees — including people from Pakistan — that have resulted in baptisms. Hiller asked for prayers for the new believers. After converting, some have been threatened with death by members of their own family, she said.
Jacob Haskew works with the Danube Church of Christ in Vienna, another congregation helping refugees. Like Hiller, he is undeterred by the attack.
“This story is not yet finished,” Haskew said, noting that all the details of the attack aren’t yet known. Meanwhile, “we continue ahead, not dismayed by the terror of evil.”
He cited the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 4:10: “That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.”
Across Europe, Christians also pray for the families of those lost in the attack — and for the Gospel of Christ to shine through the tragedy.
After the attack, Dino Roussos, minister for the Glyfada Church of Christ, posted the following message to social media:
“Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ — the message of peace, love and forgiveness — will change the situation.”
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