As you are aware the Refugee crisis has dominated the news over the past days and as a Church we have sought to say something meaningful, recognising the complexity of the situation. (You can read the Moderator’s statement here bit.ly/1PPovbk). Both European leaders and world leaders need to address this evolving situation, seeking to find immediate answers to the current Refugee crisis and long term solutions to the root causes.
Our statement calls on church members to ‘welcome the stranger, love our neighbour and open our arms to those who come to our shores’. We of course need to back these words up with action and attached to this letter you will find some guidance about how we all might respond in practical ways, both now and in and the days ahead.
The main purpose of this letter is however to ask you to do something that no other organisation or institution is directly commanded to do, that is to pray. As a Church this is a responsibility stated in God’s Word that we cannot ignore if we are to remain true to our calling.
God’s Word reminds us we are to:
- Love our neighbour – our neighbours next door as well as our neighbours in our community, in our land and in our world.
- Pray for the refugees who have lost family members, homes and possessions that they may know that their plight is not being ignored and that positive action is being taken to help.
- Pray for those in authority, 1 Timothy 2:2, that they will seek the welfare and peace, not only of their own jurisdiction, but neighbouring communities and war-torn countries.
- Pray also for specifically for the governments in London, Dublin and Belfast as they prepare to receive refugees into the UK and Ireland.
- Pray that if our Churches have an opportunity to ‘welcome the stranger’, that they will not be behind the door in acting accordingly.
With all the different opinions that are expressed as to what action or non-action should be taken, let us as a Church also have our focus on prayer. Realising the urgency of the situation I am sure that many of our Churches have already been praying, but it is important at this particular time, when the world is focusing on these concerns, that the Church be seen to bring its own unique, meaningful and powerful dimension of prayer to the fore.
I trust as the Church programme recommences for another year that you may know God’s blessing and be encouraged in your work.
Yours most sincerely,
Guidance regarding a practical response
We recognise and appreciate the many timely and very practical local responses that our congregations and members have already been involved in and would encourage you to continue to respond in these ways to the immediate need of Syrian refugees arriving in Europe. At the same time, we should not lose sight of the long-term commitments that rarely make the news but have been ongoing since the onset of the Syrian crisis and make it possible for a lasting difference to be made in the lives of those most affected.
PCI’s development partners, Christian Aid and Tearfund, have been engaged with this crisis right from its outset, and their interventions are broad in scope, providing effective emergency relief in Syria itself, in the surrounding nations, and more recently on our doorstep here in Europe. (You will remember our own Moderator’s Syrian Appeal in 2013 which raised £135,000 for Tear Fund and Christian Aid to support those in Syria.).
We therefore would recommend that those who wish to make a financial contribution over this next period of time do so directly to one or both of our partners via their websites:
- Tearfund: tearfund.org where Tearfund focus on their work in Syria itself, Lebanon and Jordan.
- Christian Aid: christianaid.ie where Christian Aid Ireland highlight their work in Syria, surrounding countries, and in the European countries most affected. It is noteworthy that Christian Aid was founded 70 years ago in response to the post-Second World War refugee crisis in Europe.
Should increasing numbers of refugees from Syria begin to arrive in Northern Ireland, our own Church’s International Meeting Point in South Belfast will continue to offer a place of welcome for them, as it does for people of all nationalities who come to the City. This welcome may include the use of a clothing and foodbank, English language classes, legal advice or simply a place to meet others from overseas with similar stories to tell. At the moment there is not a need for additional ‘donations in kind’ for this project, but if this situation changes we will issue updated guidance on this and related matters.