Migration was part of the story of MCC from its start. Begun in the 1920s to help fellow Mennonites facing starvation in Russia, MCC was present during the time thousands of Mennonites, including this family from Schoenwiese, South Russia, fled the Soviet Union. “The shared experience of famine, feeding and exodus focused in MCC as an enduring symbol of what it meant to be a Mennonite,” according to the book, Hungry, Thirsty, a Stranger: The MCC Experience.
Through a new, 12-panel MCC traveling exhibit, People on the Move: The human face of migration, MCC invites you to explore stories of migration and to learn more about why people leave their homeland.
Today, an estimated 5 million people move across borders each year. MCC continues to meet migrants’ emergency needs and to give people tools to rebuild their lives and work for peace at home. The Al Hol camp in northeastern Syria, pictured here in 2010, was a refuge for people fleeing war in Iraq, while now MCC has an $8.3-million response to help people affected by violence in Syria.
In 1979, with refugees leaving southeast Asia, MCC Canada executive secretary J. M. Klassen (third from right) signed onto the Canadian government’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees program. Since then MCC Canada, with the help of hundreds of churches, has resettled more than 70,000 refugees from all over the world.
Sponsorships can turn into lasting ties. Assil Al-Hassani and her Palestinian Muslim family fled Baghdad and remained in the Al Hol refugee camp in Syria (see photo 2) for five years before Fort Garry Mennonite Fellowship sponsored the family to come to Canada in 2009. Today, Al-Hassani, shown with her husband Fu'ad Abdulla and infant son Bedir Abdulla in Winnipeg, Man., describes those from the congregation as more than family. She loves the idea that Muslims and Christians can build close friendships, saying this brings peace and mercy to the world.
In the U.S., MCC welcomes newcomers through its immigration work, providing up-to-date information and resource materials and, in some locations, working directly with immigrants. At a small storefront beside the First Haitian Church of the Brethren in Brooklyn, N.Y., Sara Mateo-Deo, immigration counselor for MCC East Coast, confers with client Emmanuel Limonta.
“I have brothers and sisters in Christ who are always ready to support, take care and love me,” says Wie Ien, who migrated to the U.S., traumatized by violent riots she had experienced in Solo, Indonesia. At Gereja Kristus Injili, a Mennonite congregation in Pomona, Calif., Ien found a community that helped her get identification documents, learn English and begin to heal. West Coast MCC partners with churches as they minister to newcomers such as Ien, shown here with husband Andreas Thio.
There are about 5 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Gaza, Syria and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. MCC has been a partner for decades with Palestinian and Israeli groups working for peace and continues to provide assistance to Palestinians in places such as Aida Refugee Camp, established as a temporary camp in 1950 and shown here in 2009. Today, the camp is filled with more permanent homes and getting more crowded as new generations grow up.
“My whole life I have known war.... I want to use my experiences and training to build peace,” says James Morris, a community peace mobilizer with MCC partner agency Sudan Council of Churches. At least 1.5 million people were killed and 4 million displaced during the 22-year Sudanese Civil War. Since a 2005 peace accord, more than 660,000 South Sudanese have returned to their homes, some after long absences. MCC is working with partners there to help people rebuild their lives and communities.
Many people migrate because they cannot find ways to support themselves or their families at home. In Bangladesh, MCC works to help people earn a living without leaving their communities. At the Bonofol handmade paper project, established by MCC, Rehana (last name not known) and others make photo albums, greeting cards, gift bags and other products out of locally available material, including straw, pineapple leaves and cotton waste from the garment industry.
Across the globe, MCC projects help communities work for peace in the aftermath of conflict. In Mampuján, Colombia, Adad Mesa Moreno studies tapestries that document the story of how her community was forced from its village by a Colombian paramilitary group in 2000. An MCC worker taught this method of storytelling in stitches and fabric as part of a trauma healing effort, and the community went on to document more of its Afro-Colombian history. As they remember the past, community members also have boldly spoken out to ask for justice for their community and become part of a national process to receive reparations.
Through the Global Anabaptist Peacebuilders Institute in Fresno, Calif., young leaders explore what it means, as an Anabaptist, to respond with the love of Christ in an increasingly interconnected world. Saulo Padilla, MCC U.S. immigration education coordinator and a GAP faculty member, snaps a photo of the institute’s migration and resettlement class. The class explored how the migration of groups from Armenians to Japanese to Latin Americans to Mennonites has shaped life in California’s Central Valley.
In the Bible, the people of God were called to remember their own stories of migration – which led to a call to safeguard the well-being of the widows, orphans and foreigners among them. Today, in a world where walkers each year carry crosses to remember people who have died trying to come to the U.S., MCC invites you to pray for those who migrate and those who are left behind, to reflect on your own family’s migration stories and to explore how to safeguard the well-being of people on the move. Learn more about the migration exhibit and find links to MCC's immigration work online, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 717.859.1151.