FIVE children from two refugee families who fled Sudan for Finland were baptised in an Arabic-language service in Espoo, Helsinki, last weekend.
The Assistant Bishop in Europe, Dr David Hamid, said that it was “a moving service, signifying not only the safe ending to a perilous journey these children have been on already, but a new beginning on the journey of life in Christ”.
The baptisms were carried out by the Revd Amos Manga, Priest-in-Charge of the White Nile congregations in Finland, to which the families and children belong. He was a former refugee, having left Sudan 15 years ago as part of the UNHCR’s asylum programme.
The White Nile congregation was founded to meet the pastoral needs of Sudanese families in Finland. About half of the Christian refugees from Sudan are Anglicans, and they make up a significant proportion of the community of the Anglican Church in Finland. It meets every fortnight for a eucharist, and services are conducted in Arabic and English.
The children came from two families who had fled the Nuba mountain region, an area of Sudan that has suffered much violence because of its affiliation with South Sudan. They had lived for many years in refugee camps in Cairo, where two of the children were born.
The Revd Tuomas Mäkipää, the Chaplain of St Nicholas’s, Helsinki, which includes Espoo, presided at the service, and Fr Manga carried out the baptism in Arabic.
Dr Hamid wrote on his blog: “In such situations in the diocese in Europe we find that the Church of England’s liturgical texts must (and indeed can!) be adapted for various kinds of situations.”
Fr Mäkipää said that the baptisms of the refugee children were a significant and moving reminder of the Anglican Church in Finland’s own origins as a refugee church. “We are enriched by being a place where all are welcome and hopefully we can offer something for those who one day decide to return to their homes. Last Sunday’s baptisms are a sign of hope in so many ways.”
“These Sudanese refugees are Anglicans,” he said, “and it means very much for them that they are recognised as Anglicans. . . It is an integral part of who they are.”