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11 September 2015

Christians at heart of refugee response

Christians at heart of refugee response

Churches are leading the response to the refugee crisis, with Christians joining the relief effort to home the estimated 500,000 people that have travelled to Europe this year.

Home for Good, the Evangelical Alliance, CCPAS and Care for the Family initiative that launched as an independent charity a year ago, began an appeal last Friday to find people willing to foster unaccompanied asylum-seeking children coming to the UK.

Thousands replied over the weekend, with the number of people registering their willingness to offer emergency homes reaching 10,000 in a week.

Home for Good asked for those from all faiths and none to respond, and welcomed registrations from Britons of many different faiths.

The local Church is also responding to the crisis.

The Guardian featured a church in Thame, Oxfordshire, which opened its doors for those troubled by recent events and wanting to help.

Krish Kandiah,  formerly a director at the Evangelical Alliance and founder of Home For Good, spoke at the special Sunday service, playing the appeal video, which suggested stepping up to foster refugees, pledging money or considering allowing a property they own being made available for refugee families.

Eacher person there lit a candle and were encouraged to act positively, rather than giving in to the panic of the crisis.

The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke out about the duty the Church has in offering a “sanctuary” to the refugees last week.

“Churches in the UK and across Europe have been meeting the need they are presented with. I reaffirm our commitment to the principle of sanctuary for those who require our help and love.

“The people of these islands have a long and wonderful history of offering shelter and refuge, going back centuries – whether it be Huguenot Christians, Jewish refugees, Ugandan Asians, Vietnamese boat people or many, many more.”

The Most Revd Justin Welby said that Christians cannot turn their backs on the crisis, but must not be so naïve as to claim to have all the answers.

“It requires a pan-European response – which means a commitment to serious-minded diplomatic and political debate, but not at the expense of practical action that meets the immediate needs of those most in need of our help.”

The Archbishop said his prayers were with those caught up in this “hugely complex and wicked crisis”.

The Church of England released a prayer, which asks the “source of all goodness, generosity and love” to give hope to the desperate and open the hearts of those fleeing for their lives.

An emergency fund has been set up by Alliance member Tearfund, working in the affected nations where the refugees are coming from.

The charity is now also working with church groups in Europe, enabling them to care, support and aid to those that have already fled.

Tearfund said: “The Tearfund Emergency Refugee Fund is supporting this vital work in Europe, as well as helping some of the millions who are displaced or refugees within the Middle East itself. Please note that due to the overwhelming generosity of supporters, Tearfund's work based in Europe is currently fully funded. However the need in the Middle East itself is vast and support is still urgently needed.”     

Christian Aid yesterday also launched an appeal to support partner agencies working with migrants across the continent to alleviate suffering, as well as working in the Middle East with those forced from their homes by conflict in Syria and Iraq.

The charity said: “In recognition that the crisis needs a political solution, [the appeal] is also asking supporters to email Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May, pressing the government to take a courageous stand at EU talks next week to ensure the UK plays a full part in a ‘permanent, balanced and mandatory EU relocation scheme’.

“This must include the UK welcoming those seeking sanctuary in Europe.”

Christian Aid is also supporting cathedrals and churches to hold vigils to pray for an end to the conflict and the hardship and suffering it has caused.

Leaders from Citizens UK led hundreds in an impromptu vigil in the Westminster Cathedral Piazza on Tuesday to remember the plight of children like three-year-old Alyan Kurdi, and the millions so far displaced across Syria.

Faith leaders from a number of traditions reflected on the suffering of those in need, and prayed for their safety. Testimonies were also given by Syrian refugees who have been resettled in the UK.

Neil Jameson, executive director of Citizens UK, said: “We welcome the government’s increased commitment to resettle people to the UK. Over recent days we’ve been inundated with support, we are confident that the country stands ready and willing to go even further. We could and should commit to resettling at least 10,000 people a year for the duration of the crisis.”

Speakers at the vigil included the Rt Revd Peter Hill,  Bishop of Barking Bishop, Rabbi Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism and Sheikh Jaffer Ladak, Hyderi Islamic Centre.

Last week’s Friday Night Theology by the Alliance’s Danny Webster called for “compassion as vast as an ocean” in relation to the crisis, while Steve Clifford, general director of Evangelical Alliance, wrote to all member churches urging them to speak out for the refugees.

To register your willingness to home unaccompanied refugees for short or long term, visit the Home For Good website here.

To learn more about Tearfund’s emergency fund and to donate, visit the website here.