In February 2018 the Christian Migrant Network was established as an initiative that aims to help the church in reaching out to new population groups in Denmark. It is established as a continuation and expansion of the Christian Refugee Network which started in 2015 as a project under the Council on International Relations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark. The original project aimed to assist pastors and local congregations in welcoming those who seek refuge in Denmark from conflict and persecution in their home countries. Now the work has expanded so it includes not only asylum seekers and refugees but also other kinds of migrants coming to Denmark.
In 2017, refugees represented only 3% of the total number of residence permits granted. Others that came to Denmark were for example international students, Eastern European migrant workers or Green Card holders. Today immigrants and descendants comprise 13% of the population of Denmark. The ELCD has not always been sufficiently aware of this new reality. Less than 3% of the non-Western immigrants and descendants are members of the ELCD – for Western immigrants and descendants it is 18%. In comparison, 86% of people with Danish origin are members of the ELCD.
If the ELCD wishes to continue its traditional role as church for the people in Denmark – including the 13% immigrants and descendants – then it requires a focused effort.
The purpose of the Christian Migrant Network is to offer itself as a resource for the local churches working among immigrants and descendants. Maybe there is a need for materials in other languages, guidance on how to offer translation during the church service or help with reaching out to immigrants in the parish. The Christian Migrant Network can contribute with knowledge, inspiration, materials and consultancy.
In January 2014 the bishops of the ELCD decided to establish a network of resource pastors who are now available for consultation and support in their own dioceses. The resource pastors meet regularly in a national network where they exchange experiences from their daily work among migrants. In the secretariat in Copenhagen there are coordinators who provide administrative and professional support to the network as well as to local churches.
The Christian Migrant Network is organized as a network organization with a flat structure and works primarily through existing structures of the ELCD. Cooperation, network, coordination, and partnerships are keywords in the daily work.