Click here

Introduction: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” (Matthew 25,35)

You welcomed me

This phrase describes the normal case: anyone leaving their old life behind and starting something new depends on being welcomed. For people who have been driven away from their homes, or have been forced to flee, this biblical phrase means: I have managed to escape with my life, I have been saved, I have a chance  in life again. Being welcomed is vital for them.

What is happening to millions of people worldwide today is familiar to the war and postwar generation in Germany. Thousands of people lost their homes after 1945 and had to seek and build a new home. That marked them and the following generations. Losing your home country or region is terrifying. But that is what happens to anyone who has to flee or is forcibly displaced. A person also loses their home if it is conquered, occupied or ruled by strangers. It took a great common effort to integrate those expelled from the eastern Germany territories and other refugees. Having a home means living with trusted people in a familiar place, without fear and with good relations. It means: being blessed.

In our Christian tradition we have a certain perspective. Jesus here sets lasting standards: loyal and hardworking people are to enjoy God’s blessing. Also foreign, hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, even guilty people will find a place to live. Through blessing, the world becomes a place in which people together settle down, East of Eden. They have a foretaste of their heavenly home.

There are 1 comments on this section. Discuss with them.

One Reply to “You welcomed me”

  1. EKvW

    Translated from German

    First of all warm thanks to all those who worked on this site and filled it! Even at first glance you can see that here people worked, argued, formulated and illustrated with passion. I am looking forward to the coming dialogue and the posts that are going to be written. That is how church is pleasant We will not only administer the ash but stoke the fire.

    Author: Wolfgang Dzieran

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


I was a stranger

Being a stranger is not always hardship. Strangeness is also fascinating. Visits to sister cities in Europe or partner churches worldwide always have something exotic and fascinating about them, and have the flair of the “wide wide world”. Unknown people are received as guests just as we are received by our hosts as visitors. People have a right to be strange.

They have a right to be themselves and no one can force them to “be like us or you will not be welcome”. Being a stranger and being accepted are not a contradiction but two sides of the same coin. (What would happen to a long-standing couple if the difference between each of them was no longer allowed …)

Something strange can also be desirable. The example of strange and exotic cuisine is obvious. Famous painters sought the magic of the Pacific in the early years of the 20th century. Our love of travel and the great interest in cruises and world trips stems from the charm of strange lands, of what is foreign and exotic. I can also get used to the strange, come to appreciate it, own it and even regret that through habituation and appropriation something strange loses its special character.

But it is also true that strange things can worry us, simply because they are different and unfamiliar. “Strange lands, strange customs” is an old German saying. That can be unsettling. Not only can something strange be unsettling because it is different. It can also conceal evil intentions, as can things in our familiar environment. You think you know a person and can trust him or her and then come betrayal, abuse, violence, crime. No one would have expected it. You grant the stranger hospitality, open the door give space for development and then the person shows their true face as an extremist and violent criminal. There are reasons when e.g. the Latin term hostis applies to both ‘the stranger’ and ‘the enemy’. We should approach each one with caution and vigilance.

You need a whole village to raise a child, says an African proverb. The community involves the individuals in life and work, gives them attention, and leads them into the community. But if they infringe norms, it acts promptly to raise the issue and impose relevant sanctions. That does not just apply to children. It does not call for much imagination to envisage what happens when that is lacking. But we must keep in mind: people who have come to us in Germany and have found refuge are subject to a special, intricate set of rules. They involve residence and labor regulations that only apply to them and not to the indigenous citizens. It is obvious that only refugees will commit certain offences through infringing these rules. Things are different, however, regarding theft, fraud, violence and abuse, and even organized crime. There are an equal number of German offenders in this field. In other words, crime does not need to be imported. True, due to the increase in population through the arrival of refugees and migrants there has been an increase in certain types of crime. Experts say that the crime rate among refugees and migrants is no greater than that of the rest of the population. Rather, for newcomers and locals alike: regardless of cultural origin, religious or philosophical affiliation or social status, there are factors that favor crime and others that serve to prevent it.

In 2016, 22.5 percent of the German population had a migration background, and in NRW it was 27.2 Prozent (Source: Statistisches Jahrbuch 2017). It says: “A person has a migration background if they or at least one parent were not born with German nationality. Persons with migration backgrounds comprise all foreigners, ethnic Germans who migrated to Germany after the Second World War or later, and those who have been naturalized. They also include persons born with German nationality but of whom at least one parent is a foreigner, ethnic German or naturalized.”

There are 3 comments on this section. Discuss with them.

3 Replies to “I was a stranger”

  1. EKvW

    Translated from German

    “….says an African proverb“.
    We often like to talk about Africa, as if it was a country, a uniform cultural construct. It seems to me that neither an “African proverb” nor an “European proverb” exists. The 1.3 billion people are spread over 55 political states with numerous subdivisions.

    Unfortunstely the simplification when talking “about Africa” is always present, even if it should be different, above all in this keynote paper and in our church. I know that here it is a “harmless” generalization but who will decide from where on it is no longer harmless?

    Author: Malte Hausmann

  2. EKvW

    Translated from German:

    Thank you for this keynote paper. Thanks that church deals with this important subject and keeps it present in public.
    I also appreciate that the text tries to stimulate a broad discussion. But some wordings are going a little bit too far, I think. Especially one sentence in this chapter seems alarming to me. “We should approach each one with caution and vigilance”.
    Caution and vigilance are necessary when I can’t trust my counterpart. In my opinion this call for such an attitude of distrust neither corresponds with the Christian message nor with the intention of this keynote paper. I really hope that this statement will be corrected.

    Author: Michael Hoffmann

  3. Batara Sihombing

    In my opinion, for being a stranger in a foreign country is not easy because you need to receive hospitable behaviors from the locals. That is why in Matthew 25,35 Jesus claims himself as a stranger. He is like someone who needs caring or hospitality. If we ignore the needs of a stranger, then it is easy to discriminate him or her or to treat him or her in inhospitable ways. If the Lord says that he is a stranger it means that we should take care those who are strangers is our respective place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


Why talk about migration again now?

The Evangelical Church of Westphalia, its members, congregations and organization have been strongly involved in receiving and integrating people who have come to us on grounds of persecution, but also for other reasons such as economic hardship, war and civil war. On the basis of the gospel, it has taken a position on fundamental questions and current challenges. Why is the Evangelical Church of Westphalia today addressing the public with this keynote paper on “church and migration”? The answer is that we consider it necessary to take a position, yet again and in a fundamental way. The situation has taken a turn for the worse in the last few months and the problems have become more urgent. At the same time, the discussion is becoming less and less conciliatory, and more and more uninhibited.

Over a million children women and men have fled their home country since 2015 from war, terror, political persecution and violence, and have come to us in Germany in the hope of a life without fear of death.

With  overwhelming  energy,  countless  citizens,  Christian  communities,  Christian  and  secular  welfare  organizations, initiatives, associations, companies and unions – in cooperation with local community leaders – dedicated themselves to the integration of the refugees and created a welcoming culture to an unexpected degree.

A good 70 years after World War II, most Germans no longer have personal experience of displacement and expulsion. Until recently that was a more of a peripheral topic in the media. We sympathised with the many million people who had fled their home countries to escape war, terror and violence. But they were far away. And then suddenly quite near. Hundreds of thousands of children, women and men have arrived in Germany in the hope of a life without fear of death. Many of them have never known what we take for granted. They have every reason to claim the basic right of asylum. They are welcome.


Hannelore Kraft, Introduction by the former Premier of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia to Gerhard Schäfer et al (ed.), Geflüchtete in Deutschland, Göttingen 2017

Through the refugees I have made new friends. I have learned a lot and they show me great gratitude and hospitality.

Man, 52

However, immigration to this extent and at this rate is also a great challenge for the cohesion of our society. It has led to uncertainty and tensions.

On the one hand, it is a long-term, ambitious and difficult task to integrate refugees into our society on a permanent basis. Adults, children and youth have to find appropriate accommodation, learn German, and find access to education and work.

On the other hand, many people in our society are deeply unsettled anyway. Their familiar world is changing rapidly and profoundly, and they are less sure of their own place amid these confusing upheavals. Economic and cultural globalization challenges familiar values. Digitization, mobility, new forms of work and progressive individualization open up undreamed new possibilities. At the same time, for many people, they radically call into question familiar patterns of life, security factors and frames of reference. It is hard to grasp the ever faster upheavals in the global economy. Key factors in people’s lives seem to be increasingly slipping out of their control as citizens. All the greater is the fear that these developments are a threat to their own future chances.

There are many people who perceive those who come to us as refugees or migrants as personifying or causing these cares and fears. Integration is a complicated, long-term process, linked with difficulties and problems. Many are increasingly feeling they cannot cope with this. Life in diversity sounds very nice but can also be perceived as a threat to their own familiar way of life. Some people feel that migrants with the ability and the will to rise in society are competing with them for jobs.

At the same time we are seeing that currently populists and rightwing extremists are exploiting these uncertainties, worries and tensions. They are transforming the worries of the population into anxiety and hate. They are directing this hate at people with a migration background and refugees, and also at people who advocate for the rights of migrants and refugees. It is important to speak out and resist hate speech and attempts at intimidation.

I have looked after many refugees since 2015. It all started so well. I ‘sacrificed’ a lot of time and energy. In some cases, their progress is so slow and laborious, and our enthusiasm has waned. I feel exploited by some and others are simply not getting anywhere.

Woman, 53

How can the church contribute to orientation and an objective discussion in such a situation? How can the stories and images of hope in the Bible sustain people in their uncertainty and worry? How can this biblically grounded hope become a source of strength for our lives and action, for our solidarity with the people who need our commitment? How can it encourage us to shape a common future, in spite of the lack of transparency, the uncertainty and the unknown outcomes of current developments?

I don’t know the Bible. Is it true that everyone in it is a migrant? […] This whole migrant and refugee issue today is glorified if is directly linked with the time of Jesus.

Read the whole comment

Ulrich Müller, retired fireman, Schwerte

This keynote paper of the Evangelical Church of Westphalia is not a message from heaven. It speaks from the perspective of close relations with our partners in political and social life. We want to contribute our experiences and insights to the public discussion. And we want to learn from the public debate. We are aware that as Christians we need to constantly adjust and correct our basic stance, but also to seek reassurance and lucidity. That is how we understand the church’s mandate and its specific tasks in view of the upcoming challenges. For that reason we are looking forward to the opportunities of direct response and communication offered by the interactive internet version of this keynote paper. You will find the whole paper at along with additional materials, such as pictures, stories, films, interviews, devotions, detailed statistics and other texts.

Let yourself be inspired by it and inspire us with your responses

There are 5 comments on this section. Discuss with them.

5 Replies to “Why talk about migration again now?”

  1. EKvW

    Translated from German

    Because it is necessary: Migrants are people who came to experience a better treatment than in their country of origin. In the worst case they might get to know Christ. That would be positive.

    Author: P. Osterkamp, man, 69 years

  2. EKvW

    Translated from German

    Yes, because it is necessary. We can’t let the people down now. Food, housing and clothing are not enough on the long run. They need further support to find their way, to lead an independent life and to become independent from support.

    Author: Beate Ullrich

  3. EKvW

    Translated from German

    There are many things to discuss! E.g. Protestant day-care facilities should make huge efforts in the integration work, meeting the needs of the multitude of existing confessions and religions! In spite of this the educators are quite often overburdened and have no time to take care of this.

    Author: Mayr Annegret

  4. EKvW

    Translated from German

    I think that many protestant day-care facilities do an excellent integration work. There are many facilities where interreligious learning is important (religious festivities, dietary rules, devotions in the beginning of the week, visiting places of worship…etc.) In the field of refugee work there are day-care facilities that also provide places for refugee children. That presents a new challenge and makes not only “necessary but as well a psycho-social support. Diaconia Rhineland-Westphalia gives good suggestions for the support of refugee children.

    Author: Ursula August

  5. EKvW

    Translated from German

    Most of the refugees who came after the second world war were from the Christian cultural area. The Turkish migrant workers were not as traumatized as the Syrian refugees. The challenges have grown. And the longer an integration process takes the more important questions of integration arise. There is an urgent need to answer questions of faith base (or philosophy of life if you prefer this). And the pressing questions of integration need answers that can only be found in the depth of our faith base (or philosophy of life if you want). And I am deeply convinced that Islam gives other answers than Christianity. The basic documents of the two religions differ too much from each other.
    There is even the question, if from Islamic side integration into the frame of our constitution is wanted.
    Is it not much more a trial of strength between religions and cultures? Interreligious dialogue is necessary as the proportion of Muslims has visibly increased.
    In my opinion churches should not try to integrate Muslims into our society but it is their task to proclaim the good and healing news of Jesus Christ. It is only Jesus’ message of reconciliation that has the power to overcome hate, war, distrust, competitive behavior, fears and so on. Material support and social security are not enough to overcome the sources of evil (or sin).

    Author: Herbert Müller

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.