In later years, more asylum seekers have come to Denmark than what has been the case previously, and a greater number of these are granted asylum, which means that they are allowed to stay in Denmark as refugees.
This puts the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark (ELCD) in a new situation. Many asylum seekers are Christian but have a cultural and church background that is different from our own. Others have a different religious background but connect with the church because they have found interest in the Christian faith and are curious to know more. Others still may have no plans to become Christian but are looking for a social network and personal relations with others through the church.
The Christian Refugee Network is a project under the Council on International Relations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark. The project aims to assist pastors and local congregations in welcoming those who seek refuge in Denmark from conflict and persecution in their home countries. Many local congregations have already experienced how the contact with people from other parts of the world has brought renewal and new inspiration to the church. Some may also have experienced challenges due to culture clashes, language barriers, how to deal with converts, or challenges in the cooperation with partners. The Christian Refugee Network can assist with support in such situations.
In January 2014 the bishops of the ELCD decided to establish a network of resource pastors who are now available for consultation and support in their own dioceses. The resource pastors meet regularly in a national network where they exchange experiences and discuss general issues related to their daily work with asylum seekers and converts. The secretariat in Copenhagen has employed several coordinators who provide administrative and professional support to the network as well as to local churches.
Furthermore, the Christian Refugee Network works to build knowledge of the different types of social initiatives and communities among and with refugees and asylum seekers. There are many examples of these, some of which are language and cultural cafes, Danish friendship contacts, international and cross-cultural groups, and other types of communities that are not directly related to worship services or questions of faith, but which are rooted in a Christian wish to meet the stranger with openness and biblical charity. This information is made available to local congregations and employees of local churches, in order to inspire those who want to start new or strengthen existing initiatives for refugees and asylum seekers.
The Christian Refugee Network is organised as a network organisation with a flat structure and works primarily through the actors that already exist in the ELCD. Cooperation, network, coordination, and partnerships are keywords in the daily work.