Mission…right where I stand: engaging the diaspora peoples worldwide
By AfriGO Team
The activity of Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and Chad has displaced millions. Many have fled to southern Nigeria, making it possible for the Church to reach out to them with the gospel. In response, CAPRO, a missions agency which began in Nigeria, set up a diaspora field. Teams are involved in church planting among these scattered northern ethnic groups, which are divided into two broad categories: Muslims and non-Muslims.
Our experience has revealed some essential aspects of diaspora ministry, as we have planted churches among northern migrants who have relocated to southern Nigeria. We’ve put these principles to work as we engage diasporic ethnic groups within the Christian environment of the Church in Nigeria. However, the principles have global applications for ministry among any diaspora people.
Ministry to the diaspora
This means direct effort by Christians to relate with, love and reach out to Muslim migrants in their communities. These migrants come into the neighbourhood from diverse backgrounds, states, regions, countries, and continents. They come as students, refugees, tourists, professionals, or labourers, driven by a desire to expand Islam to all the parts of the world through hijra. For example, North and West African Muslim migrants have settled in Europe; Middle Eastern migrants have fled to North America; and Muslim migrants from northern Nigeria, Niger and Chad have ended up in southern Nigeria.
As we encounter these Muslim migrants in the community and marketplace, let us fully engage them in prayers, friendship and evangelism, thereby fulfilling the Great Commission – even without crossing borders into other countries.
Ministry through the diaspora
Missionaries and lay Christians also have the opportunity to focus on nominal Christian migrants to bring them to Christ, disciple them, and envision them to reach out to Muslims and others within their diaspora communities. A missionary in France, for example, may engage and disciple African Christian migrants, empowering them to reach African Muslim migrants. This is doing missions through the diaspora.
Another example of ministry through the diaspora is a missionary in United Arab Emirates who disciples Asians who work in malls and in the homes of Arabs. His task is to envision and empower these people to strategically share the gospel with Emiratis.
A believer in southern Nigeria who disciples Christian migrants from the North, helping them to bring their kith and kin to Christ, is also doing ministry through the diaspora.
Ministry beyond the diaspora
This aspect of the practice of diaspora ministry has three main emphases:
1) Equipping the Church for ministry to Muslim migrants. Creating awareness, mobilising, and equipping the Church for ministry to Muslims is the first aspect of ministry beyond the diaspora. The Church needs to educate believers about what Islam is, who Muslims are, and how to lovingly reach out to them in the neighbourhood, engaging them with the gospel. In many countries where Muslims are massively migrating, the Church is largely ignorant of Islam and Muslims’ commitment to the hijra strategy of Islamic advance. This ignorance on the part of the Church, coupled with nominalism, is helping to advance the spread of Islam.
2) Training churches to plant diaspora churches. Churches that exist within migrant communities need to be made aware, envisioned, trained and charged with the responsibility of planting churches for migrants.
The majority of these migrants will normally not attend existing churches for many reasons. Many non-Muslim migrants do not associate with any church. But this can change. One example of a church that is making this effort is the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. It is being trained to embark on planting Hausa-speaking churches all over Rivers State for northern migrants. The use of one vernacular language, Hausa, can reach many.
3) Focusing on indigenous Muslims. In every region, country and continent where there has been a large influx of migrants, there are indigenous Muslims (or people of other faiths). When Muslim migrants arrive in such places, they join forces with the local ones to strengthen the frontiers of Islam in the communities.
In ministry beyond the diaspora, Christians are envisioned, trained and mobilised to engage the indigenous Muslims with the gospel. For example, Igbo Christians in eastern Nigeria can be envisioned, mobilised and equipped to evangelise Igbo Muslims at home and abroad.
Diaspora ministry seeks to gather the displaced into the kingdom of God. It can be practised by individuals, churches and groups right where they are. It is mission right where I stand.
Strangers Next Door: Immigration, Migration and Mission. J. D. Payne
Diaspora Missiology: Theory, Methodology and Practice. Enoch Wan
Scattered to be Gathered: Ministry to Migrants. John Idoko