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Need for Kosovar sponsors diminishing

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–While thousands of refugees from war-torn Kosovo have returned home to attempt to rebuild their lives, Southern Baptists have sponsored — or soon will sponsor — approximately 142 individual refugees in 32 families as of Aug. 16.
Richard Robinson, immigration ministries specialist with the North American Mission Board, said refugees will continue to arrive through the end of August. But although the need for sponsors for Kosovars has begun to wane because of the end of hostilities, Robinson said the overall need for refugee sponsors remains.
“We have hundreds of refugee families from other countries, many of whom have been waiting for sponsors since before Kosovo erupted,” he said. “Please don’t think that because the worst of the Kosovo crisis is over that the refugee crisis is over. The refugee crisis continues.”
Currently, for instance, strong needs remain for sponsors for Bosnian refugees, whose experience is similar to the Kosovars. Many have been in refugee camps in Germany for six or seven years. In the first six months of this year, Southern Baptists resettled 57 Bosnian refugees in 21 families. Overall during the same period, Southern Baptists have sponsored 302 individuals of 15 different nationalities — with 34 professions of faith recorded.
Needs also remain extremely high for sponsors for families from Sudan, which has been in civil war for 16 years. Approximately 1.9 million of the predominantly Christian black Africans from the Southern Sudan have lost their lives in their civil war with Muslims in the north, who are primarily of Middle Eastern origin.
“These are people whose families have been captured and sold into slavery. They have faced death threats because of their faith in Christ,” Robinson said. “… To me it’s just a moral imperative for Christians to sponsor these people.”
Large numbers of refugees also are coming from Vietnam, Ukraine, and Liberia. Civil war also is currently raging in Sierra Leone, creating more refugees in the future.
“When a civil war heats up the refugees being fleeing immediately, but we may not see them coming here until six months down the road,” he said, noting the rapid resettlement of refugees from Kosovo “was highly unusual.”
With the Kosovo refugees, there actually were many churches who had applied to sponsor a family, but were unable to do so because the refugees returned to their homes instead.
“We’re trying to remind those churches that ‘There are hurting people out there besides Kosovars. Please pray about taking one of the other refugee families that we have,’” Robinson said.
In just one of the encouraging stories surrounding the Kosovo refugees, one of the first families to be sponsored by a Southern Baptist church later decided to return home. But while they were guests of First Baptist Church in Corsicana, Texas, they attended church regularly. When they left, the church sent with them a copy of the “Jesus” film in Albanian along with a VCR/television combo on which to watch it.
“They were very open to Christian witness while they were here,” Robinson said. “… The seed of the gospel has been planted, and is going back to Kosovo when they return.”
For information on becoming a church sponsor or cosponsor, Robinson may be contacted at (770) 410-6343 or via e-mail at [email protected]

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  • James Dotson