CTC’s Caitlin Burbridge blogs about how churches can play a decisive role in easing the refugee crisis…
This past few weeks we’ve seen an extraordinary change of mood in the British psyche. Church leaders, along with those of other faiths and none, are calling for us to capitalise on this and become a far more hospitable country for those fleeing conflict and persecution.
For the last year, churches in Citizens UK have been working on a campaign to resettle refugees in this country. Citizens UK and the campaign group Avaaz have together been gathering specific and concrete commitments from congregations, individuals, local councils and landlords to house and welcome refugees.
If the Church’s real gift to the world is to ‘be the church,’ now we are seeing in concrete practical terms what that can look like. The Church is already made up of local communities of hospitality, that recognise their salvation comes from the hospitality and mercy of Jesus Christ.
Now we have an opportunity, alongside others in Citizens UK, to enable our communities to be at the heart of this hospitality. Here are three practical ways that you and your congregation can be involved:
JOIN THE VIGIL
On 13th October we’ll be gathering with our friends from Citizens UK in Parliament Square to call for 1,000 refugees to be rehoused here by Christmas. You can find out more about this important gathering on the Facebook event invitation here.
A major barrier to resettling people in the UK is a lack of available accommodation. Citizens UK has issued an urgent call to find 5,000 people with empty properties or properties they could make available to resettle refugees.
Could you or someone you know provide accommodation? Speak to them and ask them to sign up here.
Share the call out on facebook, twitter and by email…
Are you a member of a local church, residents association or community group? Do you know any landlords, or housing providers with property?
CONTACT LOCAL AUTHORITIES
UNHCR’s Gateway Programme resettles vulnerable people through local councils. A range of authorities from across the political spectrum have already signed up: Kingston, Newcastle, Islington, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Birmingham – we need every council in the country signing up to resettle hundreds of vulnerable people. You can make this happen by:
– Writing to your local councillors asking them to commit to resettling people.
– Visiting your council’s website, find the email address for the leader, and write to them too. Email George.Gabriel@citizensuk.org if you get a response.
– Organising a public action in your town to push this up the council’s agenda. You could run a stall, set up a mini refugee camp in a public square, organise a local petition.
– Building a local group. The crisis isn’t going to be over in a matter of weeks or months. Research what groups in your community might want to help. Work out what resources and connections you have as a community and how you might be able to provide ongoing support – language training, befriending, mentoring etc…
This is an ongoing crisis, and there are many refugees who have for many years suffered at the hands of an inhospitable system. Now we have an opportunity to not only live out our call as a church to be hospitable to those seeking refuge, but also to enable a fundamental shift in the national narrative. As we call the government to significantly increase the numbers of refugees welcomed into the country, Christian social action must be modelled upon Jesus’ words to Andrew in John 1.39 – “Come and see.” The Church must embody the change we want to see, the hospitality at the heart of the Gospel.