The director of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Department for World Service (DWS) visited Australia last month to thank the LCA for its support and to promote awareness of the department’s work.
Maria Immomen is the first woman to lead the LWF/DWS, which employs over 8000 staff, including in some of the world’s most dangerous and challenging places. Based in Geneva and with a budget over AU$195 million, the LWF/DWS is the fifth-largest partner to the UNHCR and the largest faith-based partner.
Under Maria’s leadership, department staff reach over 2.7 million people in more than 30 countries with emergency response, humanitarian aid and development support.
The LCA is an active and faithful partner with the LWF/DWS through its agency Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS). In fact, two LWF/DWS directors were Australians: Rev Dr Bruno Meutzelfedt, the founding director, and Dr Brian Neldner. LCA Executive Officer Peter Schirmer served on the LWF/DWS governing board when he was ALWS Executive Secretary, and Chey Mattner, current ALWS Executive Secretary, succeeds Peter in that role.
‘We want to thank you for your continuing steadfast and strong support to ALWS’, Maria said in a presentation at Australian Lutheran College on 5 September.
‘The work of World Service is made possible through the support of 70 different streams of funding … but the core, consistent and most reliable support comes from those sister agencies whose values, mission and commitment are based on the biblical calling to serve the neighbour in need, seeing Christ himself in our neighbour, wherever they are from, whatever their background.
‘We can’t do it without you.’
More refugees than ever – 62 million – are fleeing war and persecution. They need ‘the healing, comfort and hope for the future that our work together aims to bring’, Maria said. Today refugees face a new threat: fear-mongering fuelled by media. This can cause traditionally supportive western natures to ‘turn inwards and act with increasing intolerance to anything different than our own cultures’.
Nevertheless, Maria remains hopeful. All over Europe she has seen dying churches revitalised as they open their doors to welcome refugees.
‘The role of the church is to seek out those who need us; this is a core calling of the church’, she said to The Lutheran. ‘We are to dare to be welcoming to people who are not like us. When we do this we are looking Christ in the eye.’
Maria’s presentation is available on the LCA website.