Did you know? The BUV family comprises of over 100 LOTE (Languages other than English) faith communities and many of them are from refugee and migrant churches. As a Union, we’ve been inspired and challenged by many of their stories of struggle and overcoming to create a new life here in Australia.
Despite having experienced a great deal of hardship, when the Bushfires hit our state (and beyond) just a few months ago, many of these churches gave generously to the BUV Bushfire Appeal. We asked a couple of them to share with us why they were inspired to give so sacrificially.
Here’s what they told us:
“We are so grateful to the people and Government of Australia, we feel safe and at home here. It was sad for us to see this tragedy and we wanted to give something back.” said Rev Si Kiah of Lutuv Baptist Church. Many of his congregation members were refugees from Myanmar.
“Australia has been good to us, so we wanted to give something tangible in return” Pastor Denzil Vethamanikam of Compassion Christian Church (with mainly migrants from Sri Lanka) told us. Just prior to COVID-19 travel restrictions, Pastor Denzil also mobilised a two-night trip, for about 20 people to East Gippsland to visit churches as well as visiting the local cafes, restaurants and accommodation sites to assist them financially. Their story was featured here.
The sentiment of a grateful heart was echoed by many other LOTE churches. Pastor Christopher from Melbourne Karenni Baptist Community Church Inc went above and beyond to collect donations not only from his church but also from other Karenni churches in Australia. It was on a hot day in January when Pastor Christopher and family brought the donation (cash) they collected. He told us, “Coming as refugees, we know what it’s like when people are going through a tough journey. When we saw the bushfire news, we felt saddened for the people impacted.” Pastor Christopher said that they regarded themselves as Australians and these people affected as their own people. Together with the church members, they prayed and collected donations to help. It was most humbling to listen from him, as he explained to us that that’s how their community comes together to help anyone that’s going through a difficult time. “It is a bit like two fish and 5 loaves of bread sharing.” Pastor Christopher said. “We commit to love one another, helping, carry each other burdens, rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn to fulfil the law of Christ.”
Because of these sacrificial acts of giving from our Baptist family, many people around Victoria have been helped and are extremely grateful – grateful for the giving and also grateful for the work that the BUV are doing in response to the Bushfires. This is made possible by the many; the many who were capable to give and the many who wanted to give sacrificially as an expression of gratitude for the lives they are able to live here in this country and state.
Some of the hardships that are rare to us here in Australia are not uncommon to our refugee communities. In the midst of upheavals such as the Bushfires, COVID-19, and even most recently, BLM, their voices and actions are inspiring to all and we are grateful to be able to be ‘better together’.