United Methodists in Brussels safe after attacks

Two United Methodist leaders and a mission team from the United Methodist East Ohio Conference are safe after traveling through the Brussels International Airport during the attacks, which have left more than 30 people dead and dozens injured.

“I am thankful to God for the safety of our team,” said Bishop John Hopkins, East Ohio Conference. “I am praying for the people of Brussels as they recover from this terrible terrorist act.”

Thomas Kemper, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, talked with Yeabu Kamara and Elvira Moises, agency board members who were in transit from New York to Africa through the Brussels airport. He tweeted that "both are safe in Catholic family’s home after traumatic experience at the airport."

Sierra Leone Bishop John Yambasu said he heard about the attacks from United Methodist missionaries Clifford and Nancy Robinson, who were at the airport in Lungi, Freetown, on their way to the U.S. via the Brussels airport.

“My guess is that Kamara and Moises, may not have been impacted — at least physically — by the attack because they may have just arrived at the transit lounge. … The attack took place at the departure hall where passengers were checking in,” Yambasu said.

“My heart goes to the more than 34 dead and over 170 wounded in the attack. The whole world need to go on their knees and act for this inhumane carnage to stop in our world.”

United Methodist leaders who called for prayer spoke of remembering other violent attacks, including six gunmen who opened fire on civilians at a Côte d’Ivoire beach resort, a suicide car bombing in Ankara, Turkey, and more than a hundred incidents in various parts of the world just this year.

“In a world wracked with violence and terror, we must continue to pray and work for peace. May we all hold the people of Côte d'Ivoire, Belgium and every corner of our broken world in our hearts and minds this Holy Week," said the Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, top excutive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society. 

East Ohio team safe

“Thank you everyone for your prayers,” said Aaron Phillips of The Nehemiah Mission of Cleveland.  “I experienced only the confusion of evacuation and police resolution. It’s very weird.”

Phillips was part of a five-person team returning from a 10-day mission trip to Ganta, Liberia, in West Africa. He and Paula Shaw of Hudson (Ohio) United Methodist Church were through security and near the departure gate when the deadly explosion occurred at the ticketing counter.

Other team members were on a different flight from Brussels that departed before the explosion.

Phillips and Shaw are currently “safe in Leuven looking for a new way home,” Phillips said in an interview with the East Ohio Conference.

The world responds

“Europe is again facing a violent terrorist attack. We are praying for all who lost loved ones and for those who are wounded,” said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner of Germany. “And we pray and work that we overcome fear and do not answer evil with evil but uphold democratic, humanitarian and civil right standards that reflect the values of an open Europe.”

Bishop Patrick Streiff, who leads United Methodists in Central and Southern Europe, urged people “to continue to follow Christ in this week of Passion and Easter.”

“As those who follow Jesus, the crucified and resurrected One, we need to continue in doing good as much as we can, in building respectful community, in working for peace and justice, in being agents of reconciliation and never give up despite blind violence, hatred or paralyzing fear, wherever we live,” he said.

The Conference of European Churches, which includes Methodists in Europe, condemned the violent attacks but urged “peaceful responses in the hours and days that follow.”

San Francisco Area Bishop Warner Brown Jr., the president of the Council of Bishops, said the news of this attack “comes on the heels of violence in other parts of the world, including Cote d'Ivoire earlier this month and more than a hundred incidents in various parts of the world just this year.

“I am touched by this pain to the fabric of humanity. It’s a pain we must face and seek to heal with love and justice, but we recognize that controlling or preventing these kinds of tragedies is beyond our power alone. We turn to our God who creates justice and loves and embraces us all.”

Gilbert is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Linda Bloom, UMNS reporter in New York; Rick Wolcott, director of communications for the East Ohio Conference; Phileas Jusu, Sierra Leone; and E. Julu Swen, Liberia, contributed to this story. Contact Gilbert at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].

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