Millions of people around the world are fleeing their native countries for countless reasons, such as disease, persecution, and war. This global migration of people is known as diaspora.
The term diaspora was coined to describe the dispersion of Jews beyond Israel, but in a broader sense it is known as the dispersion of any people from their original homeland. The term originated when the Septuagint was translated from Hebrew to Greek. The verb diaspeirein and the noun diaspora describe the spiritual condition of anguish that the Jews experienced as they were displaced by a zealous God.
We see this anguish expressed in Deuteronomy 28:25, which says, “The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will come at them from one direction but flee from them in seven, and you will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms on earth.”
The term diaspora shifted to include refugees around the time the United Nations formally recognized the problem in the year 2000. The United Nations says that by the end of 2019, a record high of 79.5 million people around the world were displaced from their homes because of conflict or persecution. Out of those 79.5 million refugees, about 30 million of them are under the age of 18.
Why is this information important to a missions strategy?
In Leviticus 19:34 we are told that, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” Diaspora provides a unique opportunity to love those who are displaced from their native country and provides access to unreached people groups around the world. Many refugees and displaced people are part of unreached people groups. Through their displacement, missionaries are able to share the gospel with people who were previously difficult to reach because their native country has heavily restricted access to the gospel. For example, large numbers of people fleeing Syria due to unrest are now located in European countries. Historically, Europe has been open to evangelism while most Middle Eastern countries have restricted access to the gospel. This provides an opportunity for those refugees to hear the gospel and allows missionaries to reach more of the unreached.
It is important to understand that the whole gospel is for the whole world. A traditional missions strategy is geographically focused. A diaspora-focused missions strategy prioritizes every person in the Kingdom without any geographic boundaries. There are a multitude of people scattered across the globe who still need to be won by Christ, and there are many ways we can take advantage of the opportunity Christ has given us through diaspora.
To actively participate in the diaspora mission, we need to:
- Recognize the need to develop training and organize resources to best respond to the missional opportunities. Now is the time to take advantage of the global migration by training up the children of God to expand His Kingdom to all.
- Obey the biblical commandments to love the foreigner as mentioned in Leviticus 19:34 and intentionally seek out ways to be hospitable and build relationships with those around you.
East-West’s Diaspora initiative is responding to this migration of peoples known as the global diaspora, with a biblical plan to access households who don’t know Jesus and create relationships that can lead to impact in their countries of origin. In “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement,” the authors say, “Working with people who are visiting or have newly migrated to our home communities can be every bit as significant as going to distant countries”. Let us be a generation that embraces the migration and introduces them to their Father!