We are asking God to use us to start a discipleship movement among refugees in Italy. You may wonder, what is a discipleship movement? These aren’t our videos, but these two videos on YouTube may help explain further what we mean when we talk about a discipleship movement:
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmqenWEVPuo (1:35)
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJq1N4PiH28 (4:39)
Many refugees have come to Italy, hundreds of thousands in the last few years. We believe that there is a window of opportunity to connect with those who have come and who may then carry the message of the Gospel with them as they travel further, or possibly someday back to their homelands, should they return home. Our desire is not only see the discipleship movement happen here, but due to the transient nature of the immigrants and refugees, we look forward to seeing the Gospel carried directly into the heart of the places where these disciples will travel.
Where are the refugees from?
There are refugees coming from many countries throughout Africa and the Middle East. The largest groups arriving recently in Sicily come from countries such as Eritrea, Somalia, Nigeria, Gambia, and other African countries. However, you may also come across people from Iraq, Egypt, Sudan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, or Afghanistan. To see the most recent information on the refugees arriving by boat, look at this resource from the UNHCR. We would also encourage you to look up more specific information about the country of origin on either Operation World’s website or Joshua Project.
What is the age and gender make-up / distribution of the refugees?
While specific statistics are not available, our experience and observations are that the majority of the refugees are men between ages 20-40. We do know that there are also a significant number of women and children within the refugee population, but these people are heavily protected and guarded by the Italian government, especially the children.
What misconceptions about refugees should be dispelled before coming to Sicily?
The issue of refugees and displaced people can be difficult to understand, especially with all that is now happening around the world. We have created a document with answers to common misconceptions about refugees coming to Italy.
One of the most important aspects of ministering to refugees is empathizing with them and being sensitive towards the difficult journey they have been on to arrive in Italy. We recommend watching a short documentary about refugees to Italy. Though there are many on YouTube, this video is a 30 minute video that is an excellent resource.
What languages do the refugees speak? Will we be able to speak with them in English?
As you might expect, there are many different languages and dialects spoken amongst the refugees. However, in our experience, we are frequently able to communicate with the refugees in English. This is not always the case, but we have frequently found that, even if one is not able to speak in English, another person within a group can speak English well enough to help translate. On the other hand, if you happen to speak French, you will be a great asset to the team as many of the African refugees speak French.