By Mitch Pierce, Northern Europe Regional Director
The Free Methodist Church in Europe is pleased to announce, after 14 years of waiting, disappointment and uncertainty, Rev. Eleazar Habiyakare has been granted refugee status in Belgium. What a great answer to prayer! We wish to thank everyone who has been praying for Eleazar and his daughter Patience, who we have helped support financially during this time of being officially considered stateless.
Rev. Habiyakare was the director of the John Wesley Institute of Kibogora (a Free Methodist high school) until the time of the genocide in 1994. Eleazar and his wife fled from Rwanda, living for a time in a refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo and eventually relocating to Kenya, where their daughter was born.
In Kenya, Eleazar entered the ordination process with the FMC, completed a M.Div. degree and became the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Academic Affairs at Hope Africa University. He was ordained a deacon in 2000. Sadly, in 2001, his wife passed away.
Unfortunately, it became increasingly dangerous for Rwandan refugees to live in Kenya, as cross-border raids, kidnappings and assassinations became more common. Eventually, the Kenyan government advised all Rwandans to leave the country, as their safety could no longer be guaranteed.
In 2003, Eleazar and Patience left Kenya and went to Belgium, joining a Central African Free Methodist Church there, which had already been established by other Rwandan refugees. There, in 2006, Eleazar was ordained as an elder in Belgium. Upon arriving to Belgium in 2003, their legal status was one of an asylum seeker. For the next 10 years, they went through a lengthy process of having their asylum application considered and eventually denied, followed by two automatic appeals.
Then, in 2013, they officially became stateless, meaning they had no legal standing in any country and thus, lost social benefits and the right to work in Belgium.
For the past four years, things have been extremely difficult for the Habiyakares. Only through the generous support from the Brussels FMC and other concerned individuals living abroad, have they been able to survive.
In April, of this year, Eleazar reapplied for refugee status with the Belgian Foreign Office, hoping his case might be reconsidered. On Oct. 18, 2017, he received notification that his application had been approved and that he and his daughter were now granted refugee status.
We rejoice together with Eleazar and Patience, and the entire congregation of the Brussels Free Methodist Church!