The Dutch church service is not for the Nigerian pastor Ola Asubiaro. “I saw them thinking: oh my, where is he from? I spoke to some people after the service and they asked: when are you going back?”
The services are also different here than in Nigeria. “So quiet, I didn’t feel comfortable. In Nigeria you have to swing, dance and jump. But here in the Catholic Church they are all quiet. The priest does everything alone and you only have to say amen yourself.”
Christian migrants, such as Asubiaro, are an almost invisible group in society. Yet it concerns more than a million people, about as many as there are Muslim migrants. There are 21 migrant churches in Amersfoort alone.
Asubiaro also decided to establish a church himself: the Glorious Chapel. Praise is sung to the Lord every Sunday in a former kindergarten.
“They come from countries all over the world: Africa, Latin America, Middle East, Asia. They look very diverse and in that sense they are not really recognizable,” says migrant church expert Madelon Grant.
“Many migrants have to leave their own families behind and see the church as their new family,” she says. Research shows that the church also plays an important role in integration: everything is organized to familiarize members with society.
Likewise in the Glorious Chapel. “On Mondays we drink coffee, on Tuesdays we give a Dutch language course and on Wednesdays there is homework guidance for secondary school students. On Fridays and Saturdays we have activities for the youth in the neighborhood,” says pastor Asubiaro.
Speaking without accent and doing your best: those kinds of Dutch things.
But migrants are also helped on their way in Stephan Bakker’s native Orthodox church. “We try to help them become part of the Dutch culture. You have to become Dutch, there is nothing you can do about it. Speaking without accent and doing your best: those kinds of Dutch things.”
So this church also organizes many activities. “We help them, for example, with language, education and finding work. We teach them to approach them like Dutch people: you shouldn’t hold out your hand.”
That guidance from the church is useful. Research shows that if you were to have the voluntary deployment of churches carried out by professionals, it would cost about 120 million euros for the city of Rotterdam alone. The indigenous churches and the international migrant churches contribute about the same: both about 50 percent.
bring something back
But migrant churches are not only concerned with the salvation of their own churches. According to Asubario, they are also coming to bring something back for all of us.
“The Dutch have brought the gospel to Africa for hundreds of years. Now God sees that Europe is turning away from the faith. People no longer believe in God, they believe in themselves. We see that. God is bringing us back from Africa to Europe to to preach the gospel again.”