Extraordinary pledges, donations, and other signs of solidarity are shown from partner churches and organizations in response to a call from the Reformed Church in Hungary in support of Kalunba Social Services Ltd.
Thanks to the generous support of partner churches and organizations of the Reformed Church in Hungary (RCH), Kalunba Social Services Ltd. has reached the minimum balance of 120 000 EUR needed to continue their work among refugees, and in this way, also supporting the work of the RCH Refugee Integration Unit.
Kalunba Social Services Ltd. serves as the implementing partner of the RCH Diaconal Office. This ministry takes a comprehensive approach to integration work among refugees, with the conviction that services are people-centered and tailored to meet each individual’s needs. The goal is to empower clients, helping them to become independent. Kalunba provides three main areas of service: housing, education, and employment.
Due to the recent withdrawal of grants from Asylum Migration Integration Fund (AMIF), Kalunba was forced to take a step back: ongoing projects, such as the housing program, language courses, resettlement of Syrian refugees, university-level interpreter training, were cut, and staff was significantly reduced. Although Kalunba has begun to take measures in order to ensure the most basic of services are available by offering Hungarian language courses for tuition, providing accommodation for rent, offering tailoring services for hire, and applying to outside projects for support, there is still much left to be done in order to provide the essential support refugees need to successfully integrate in Hungary.
Between 2012 and 2015, the number of asylum seekers in Hungary increased drastically. In 2015, this migration movement became visible to the public, leading to the adoption of various restrictive measures, including the erection of fences along Hungary’s borders with Serbia and Croatia. A statement from the Hungarian government was released stating that recognized refugees have the same rights as Hungarian citizens, therefore they do not need social services or support in integration. Social benefits for integration, and specialized services were cut and no longer available. After this, integration assistance was provided by NGOs and church-based projects. In January 2018, it was announced that the call for grants from the Asylum Migration Integration Fund (AMIF) will be canceled, and as of the July 2018, all EU funding, a major source of income for many organizations supporting migrants and refugees, has ceased for in Hungary.
Responding to a call from the RCH, the European Area of World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC Europe), the Swiss Interchurch Aid (HEKS), the Evangelical-Reformed Church in Germany, the Evangelical Church of Westphalia, the Evangelical Church in Rhineland the Evangelical Church of Lippe and the Presbyterian Church in Canada offered financial aid, the Reformed Alliance in Germany began a donation campaign, and the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME) provided advocacy. HEKS, a long-term RCH partner in supporting marginalized people, also shared an empowering letter with the Reformed Church in Hungary, “Especially in an atmosphere where public opinion is heated and constantly turned against refugees and migrants, we are afraid that exponents of these organizations [supporting refugee integration] or refugees themselves may become a target of hatred, harassment, and even physical violence. We believe that churches can play a role and are called to raise their voices to halt the spiral of hatred and de-legitimization against those who help people in need.” The encouraging words, generous gifts, and thoughtful prayers from the partners for Kalunba have bridged the financial gap for the rest of 2018.
“Organizations and people who help refugees and migrants integrated in Hungarian society need support, not stigmatization. They are working with recognized refugees and legal migrants who have no other place to go without losing their legal status. A good integration enables them to live independently as active members of Hungarian society.”
The RCH has also provided special support to the Refugee Ministry through means of a financial loan, and is continuously seeking other ways to support the work of Kalunba. The leadership of the RCH has approached key officials of the Hungarian government in hopes that funds will resume soon, however, there has been no positive responses to the future of AMIF in Hungary.
Inspired by the letter from HEKS, the RCH continues to “encourage people, and especially church members, to actively seek contact with refugees and the refugee projects of churches to learn about their situations and if, within reason, contribute to their [refugee-aiding organizations] work as volunteers.”
Written by Pricilla Yang