Neighbourly love instead of xenophobia

“The stranger is your neighbour!” This was one of the core messages from Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider over the past year. And—even in times of terrorism and war, waves of immigration, and xenophobia—this also remains our mission for the new year.

The year 2015 ended as it began: with bloody attacks in Paris. On 7 January Islamic extremists killed 16 people in the offices of a satirical magazine and a supermarket. And on 13 November terrorists murdered some 130 people in eight different crime scenes in the French capital. New Apostolic Christians worldwide reacted with compassion and pensiveness.

There is violence in all parts of the world

On the one hand, the international Church leader and the District Apostles interceded in prayer on behalf of all the victims and their loved ones. On the other hand, however, they also encouraged the members of the Church to see the bigger picture. “Things like this occur every week in one or the other place around the world—and they are terrible no matter where they happen,” said Chief Apostle Schneider, referring to attacks in Niger, Mali, Kenya, Afghanistan, and Syria.

What this means for the people on the ground in concrete terms was also shown by reports on nac.today. For example, more than 4,500 members from the Baringo region in eastern Kenya are on the run from conditions akin to civil war. Divine services had to be cancelled in Niger after several dozen Christian churches went up in flames as a result of violent riots.

Do not give room to hatred

In addition to comfort, the divine services conducted by the Chief Apostle offered direction for dealing with hostile fellow human beings in the aftermath of the attacks. “Hatred has no place in the house of the Lord,” he said in a divine service in Zwickau (Germany) in November. “I cannot assume that all Christians are bad because a few Christians have done something terrible. By the same token, I cannot hate all Muslims just because a few Muslims have committed terrible things.”

Again and again, Chief Apostle Schneider put the focus on love for our neighbour: “Our neighbour can be the stranger who is completely different from us, or who has a completely different culture or belief from our own. But even if he has a completely different nature or opinion, he remains our neighbour,” he made clear in a divine service in Luxembourg.

Our neighbour: friend, stranger, enemy

Whether friend, stranger, or enemy—everyone is our neighbour. And how are we supposed to love them? In a divine service he conducted in Buenos Aires in November, the Chief Apostle gave some very practical instructions concerning this: give your friend what you yourself expect of him, share with the stranger what you yourself possess, and do not begrudge your enemy the salvation you wish for yourself.

This neighbourly love has been demonstrated by our brothers and sisters around the world in many different ways: for example, the young people of the Paris-North district prayed for both the victims and the perpetrators of the terror attacks. In South Africa, one Bishop took a stand against xenophobia by making house visits during a wave of violence. And in Europe, numerous congregations have become involved in providing aid to the refugees who are streaming primarily into Germany from war-torn regions.

Doing good and sharing with others

People from Eastern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East are fleeing to Europe by the hundreds of thousands. Their plight has moved the heart of many. Along with other Christians, initiatives, and organizations, New Apostolic members are helping alleviate the need of these refugees. These efforts range from fundraising campaigns to personal care.

The European District Apostles have also provided support with practical advice and financial action. “But do not forget to do good and to share.” It was with this reference to the words recorded in Hebrews 13: 16 that the Chief Apostle appealed to the brothers and sisters in a divine service in Rottweil (Germany) in September. “Let us not do anything on the basis of calculating what we can get out of it,” he said, rejecting all notions of self-promotion or missionary efforts as motives. “What we do should simply be done out of pure love for our neighbour.”

Called in order to pray

In the meantime, circumstances of a completely different dimension are playing out in Africa. On the occasion of World Refugee Day, nac.today took a look into the refugee camps in East Africa: some 1.5 million people have sought refuge in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda alone. Ministers report on overcrowded camps which are short on foodstuffs and medical care. But despite all the need, our brothers and sisters there still live in accordance with their faith. And Holy Communion is celebrated everywhere.

It was also in Rottweil that Chief Apostle Schneider clearly expressed what members can do at any time in cases such as these: “It is always nice to get together every now and then and say, ‘You know something? Now we will take a moment and pray together for the situation!’ This does not require the presence of a minister. The congregation merely needs to be aware that we have also been called in order to pray!”

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Andreas Rother
1.01.2016