by Jonathan Krause

Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS), our church’s aid and development agency, is mobilising our Lutheran community to assist people fleeing Ukraine.

Support from Australia and New Zealand is implemented by Lutheran World Federation (LWF), supporting the work of Lutheran churches in:

  • Ukraine – German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ukraine
  • Hungary – Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary
  • Romania – Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Romania; Evangelical Lutheran Church in Romania
  • Slovakia – Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in the Slovak Republic
  • Poland – Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland.

Chey Mattner, former Executive Director of ALWS, now Head of Operations for LWF World Service, is working in a three-person LWF delegation supporting these Lutheran churches. Where possible, LWF is also working with the Lutheran churches inside Ukraine.

Chey reports, ‘We were on the Polish/Ukrainian border soon after the invasion began. (People here don’t call it a war because that’s not a true reflection of what’s happening.) It was bitterly cold, too cold for snow. The temperature at night was -12˚C. People were arriving at border crossings. Some were picked up by people they knew, others by complete strangers, while many were taken to nearby reception points.

‘Congregations opened up their doors across the country; they welcomed people in and provided food and a warm bed, even though many of these households are poor themselves, still heating their homes with coal.

‘One Lutheran woman said: “I’m doing this because it is what Christ would have done, and because their husbands are also fighting for me”.’

In one case, an old couple brought 13 children across the border. The children were placed in a bus to Germany but the old couple’s Lada couldn’t keep up, and they were separated. The children found themselves on the street in the freezing cold. On hearing this, a Lutheran congregation member in Slovakia called two Lutheran congregations in Germany and within 15 minutes the family was reunited and all had warm places to stay for the next two nights.

‘LWF was created after the Second World War, with its original mandate to serve European refugees, one out of every four of whom was Lutheran’, Chey says. ‘Seventy years on, we’re doing the same thing.’

Through ALWS, our LCANZ is supporting the LWF action to welcome and care for 170,000 people:

  • shelter and household essentials – 41,000 people
  • food – 65,000 people
  • education – 39,000 people
  • psycho-social support – 2,000 people
  • community engagement – 23,000 people.

Everyday Lutherans are leading the way in this emergency response.

Chey says, ‘In Slovakia, the response from the Lutheran church has been remarkable. They have worked quickly with other denominations to negotiate a space in the small strip between the Slovak and Ukrainian borders to set up a tent where emergency goods are provided to weary children, mothers and grandmothers.

‘The Lutheran schools have welcomed children into their classes and are planning to renovate disused buildings to accommodate more students.

‘Bishops have rolled up their sleeves to become humanitarian coordinators – identifying needs, making contacts with congregations, the Lutheran youth fellowship, the Lutheran women’s fellowship, organising trucks of food, water, sanitary kits, and so on.

‘There is no time for dithering here. People are getting straight into it without thinking twice. They’re making space in their small homes, and giving what they can to serve their neighbours, just like Australian and Kiwi Lutherans do when they respond to a crisis.’

ALWS has pre-committed a minimum of $50,000 to the emergency response for the people of Ukraine, and donations are welcome.

Chey concludes, ‘We can’t overestimate the scale of human suffering in Ukraine. At the same time, I hope this is an opportunity for the world to be reminded of the 80 million people who are forcibly displaced in other parts of the world. Now is not the time for these crises to be forgotten.’

Jonathan Krause is ALWS Community Action Manager.

ALWS offers guest speakers to churches, who can provide updates on the Lutheran action. Donations are welcome: * 1300 763 407

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