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'First Migration Bible comes not a moment too soon'

9 November 2023
Migration is of all times. Even the Bible is full of migrants, their relocation or flight, and how they were received (or not). Theologian Samuel Lee is now making his dream come true publishing the Migration Bible. He connects the old stories to new ones, hoping that we will learn something from them. 'There is nothing new under the sun'.

The Migration Bible is an English-language bible, based on the Good News translation, an inclusive version with clear and contemporary language. The makers add 17 articles, 15 portraits of migrants and 22 reading plans. It was founded by Samuel Lee, a theologian at the VU Faculty of Religion and Theology. 

For whom was this Bible made, and why?

Globalisation affects everyone, both the migrants and the countries, organisations, churches and individuals that receive them. The Migration Bible is for anyone who wants to be inspired to read the Bible again with a focus on migration and hopefully also apply the wisdom they read. 

Because the stories we read in the Bible also take place today. The Migration Bible connects the stories of the past with the stories of contemporary migrants, written by different authors from almost every continent. It is full of experiences of migrants and deals with themes such as justice and how to deal with migrants, and vice versa. We also describe the different forms of migration, such as migration due to climate change, war, human trafficking, and so on.

You've been working on the idea for years, why did it take so long?  

Frankly, I feel this Bible should have been published years ago. I had been walking around with this concept for 20 years and I tried to convince various organizations, especially abroad, to publish such a Bible. But at the time there was little attention and interest, no one took me seriously. 

Until a few years ago, I spoke at the National Synod and met Dr. Rieuwerd Buitenwerf, the director of the Dutch-Flemish Bible Society (NBG). I shared my idea with him and there was an immediate click. That's when our friendship began, and then our collaboration. Two years ago we put together an international editorial team and the rest is history. 

I think that especially now many Christians, both in the Netherlands and abroad, are increasingly realizing how important the theme is. There are now more than 282 million international migrants worldwide and this number will only increase. 

I believe that the Netherlands is the first country in the world to publish an English-language Migration Bible. Usually thematic Bibles are initiated in the US or the UK, but I am proud that the Netherlands has taken the lead this time. We are now in the process of publishing this Bible in Dutch, French and Spanish.

What do you hope the book will bring about? 

The experiences of today's migrants are similar to many experiences in the Bible. This makes us think about how we deal with migrants. First of all, I hope that the migrants who read this Bible realize that they are all worthy of living a beautiful life, that it inspires them to value themselves. I hope they realize that they are not numbers in statistics, but people with a face, with human dignity, created in the image of God.

I also want to inspire the Christians who receive migrants in their countries, cities and villages to look at these people in a different way. I hope that churches and NGOs worldwide will read this book and take action. And I hope it reminds Christian political parties, both in the Netherlands and abroad, of what the Bible asks of us with regard to migrants. 

It is your long-cherished wish to make this book, why?

I have devoted almost my entire Christian career to the theme of migration theology. I haven't just read or written about it in books, but actually lived it. Migration and theology are part of my life, they testify to who I am and how I interact with others. As a migrant and newcomer, I didn't have it easy. I had to work hard and challenge myself. When I became the very first Theologian Laureate with a migration background, I realized the roads and challenges I had endured. Now I also try to help migrant pastors here at our beautiful faculty to make their dreams come true to be able to study here. The Migration Bible is truly the realization of a dream.

Photo: Willem Jan de Bruin