This week I met with five church leaders from the Middle East who have found a home in Australia and the Uniting Church.
Coming from fraught and perilous circumstances, these leaders found safety in Australia and we are now blessed by the gifts they share with us.
Rev. Hagop Sarkissian, Rev. Krikor Youmoushakian, Rev. Gaby Kobrossi, George Fatal and Levon Kardashian came together at the Willoughby Armenian Evangelical Uniting Church to discuss the formation of a Middle East National Conference within the Uniting Church.
I was touched to hear them speak of their respective ministries.
“Five years ago I accepted the call from this congregation, Willoughby Armenian Evangelical Uniting Church, to be their minister,” said Rev. Hagop Sarkissian, the host of the meeting. “At that time I was a minister at the Armenian Evangelical Church in Lebanon. Before Lebanon, I was a minister in Syria for 12 years.”
“This is the only Armenian Congregation within the Uniting Church. The Armenian group first joined the Congregational Church in Australia in May 1966, before the union of the Uniting Church in Australia in 1977.
“It has been 60 years wonderful witness in Australia,” he added.
Rev. Gaby Kobrossi also shared about his ministry at Bankstown Uniting Church where he has 27 different nationalities in his congregation.
“We have members who came from Middle East regions who speak Arabic,” he told us. “In 1991 an Arabic Faith Community started their ministry in Bankstown. Now they also have second generation Arabic-speaking group”.
As I listened , I couldn’t stop giving thanks for God’s generosity in bringing people from around the world to live peacefully in Australia.
We also had a conversation on the refugee issue as Australia prepares to take an extra 12,000 Syrian refugees.
We talked about the ways we could provide support to them. At the moment Bankstown Uniting Church is working with Australian Government agencies to provide practical support to refugees who are settled in its local area.
This is the way we offer space for grace for those who are in need.
Delightfully, the meeting finished with a community breakfast with the Armenian Women’s Group.