Opportune Sanctuary

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A Sydney-born project is looking to bring persecuted Christians, or “service missionaries”, from overseas to Papua New Guinea to work in church-run schools and hospitals, with the aim of combining practical assistance and partnership with a mutually humanitarian bent.

Known as The Sanctuary Project, it seeks to provide migration pathways for Christians in countries with persecuted Christian populations, while also being able to make use of their skills and expertise to benefit the host country. It has strong support from Papua New Guinea’s Anglican, Catholic and United churches, is directed by Anglicans from Sydney, and will be conducted in partnership with the PNG government.

“It’s essentially a sponsored migration program,” says the director of The Sanctuary Project and former director of Evangelism and New Churches, the Rev Bruce Hall.

“The government gives the churches visas and work permits for people outside the country to come in and work in hospitals and schools that the churches run in rural areas. So we’re trying to find people in the persecuted church and bring them across, particularly to within within the Milne Bay Province.”

Mr Hall says the project is completely independent of the Australian Government, and people brought to PNG would not be refugees and asylum seekers under the UNHCR. They would instead be entering the country under working visas, taking up teaching and nursing positions in rural communities that are deemed locally as difficult to fill.

The first of the migrants are yet to arrive in Papua New Guinea, although there are teachers who have been approved by the government as skilled migrants. The idea is to trial the pathway with 15-16 families.

“The plan is to benefit all the parties involved,” Mr Hall says. “Christians persecuted overseas have safe sanctuary amongst Christian communities [and] the churches and the government benefit from skilled migration by having people enter the country who are willing and able to make use of their talents for the benefit of everyone.”

In the first group of migrants there will be about 70 people to settle into new positions in the Milne Bay area. To do this The Sanctuary Project needs to raise $2500 for each person, which will cover the passport required, immunisation and flights to Papua New Guinea.

For more information, or to donate, contact Evangelism and New Churches on 02 9577 9875 or visit the Anglican Relief and Development Fund Australia website.

Photo caption: (from left) Anglican Bishop of Milne Bay Tennyson Bogar, United Church Bishop Leidimo Edoni, The Sanctuary Project senior researcher Angus Skeoch and Catholic Bishop Rolando Santos.