Posted: 11 Dec 2018 01:30 AM PST
Over the last six months, JPIT has been campaigning for an end to the ‘hostile environment’ immigration policies which are causing destitution, discrimination and distrust in our society. But how can our churches play a part in creating a more welcoming environment for migrants?
www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/BethRowland-300×300.jpg 300w, www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/BethRowland-768×764.jpg 768w, www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/BethRowland-1024×1019.jpg 1024w, www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/BethRowland-100×100.jpg 100w” sizes=”(max-width: 150px) 100vw, 150px” />We begin a series of blogs on this theme with a guest article by Beth Rowland, Communications Officer for Welcome Churches, a national charity training churches and individuals to better welcome and integrate refugees into their communities. Welcome Churches’ vision is for every refugee in the UK to be welcomed by their local church.
Earlier this year, a JPIT blog asked if we have been complicit in creating the hostile environment. Have we not stood up for those who are shamed, isolated or discriminated against, simply because of who they are? Refugees and asylum seekers do not always have an easy journey in the UK – and that is after they have taken perhaps the hardest journey of their lives just to get to this country.
God calls us to love our neighbours: regardless of colour, creed or status, confusion and language barriers. Welcome Churches aims to equip churches to better welcome refugees and asylum seekers into the community, and offer models of practical projects and training support to make that happen. We believe that we can all work to make the hostile environment a more hospitable one.
Churches across the country that have worked with Welcome Churches have been transformed, welcoming refugees into their congregations, homes and lives. Volunteers have described having their hearts changed by learning more about different cultures and what it is like to seek asylum in the UK.
This has created an environment of love, as the Welcomers (volunteers) and their Neighbours (refugees and asylum seekers) have got to know each other, shared food together, and also, when appropriate, talked about the life of Jesus Christ. We have seen many Neighbours begin their own journey of faith after meeting with our Welcomers.
The Bible gives encouragement for Christians to share God’s grace and love with those with whom we share our communities. God calls us to welcome those who have had long, difficult journeys, to sit and eat with them and share his love with them. Our vision is to see every refugee and asylum seeker that arrives in the UK welcomed by their local church.
The hostile environment may be prevalent, but as Christians we have the communities and the calling to change that for our vulnerable neighbours. By welcoming your new neighbours into your community, you can help ease their burdens and take away some of their fears.
Welcome Churches wants to see every refugee living within their community, not outside of it, and we would love for churches to start their own journey by becoming a Welcome Church. Contact us if you or your church want to play a part in realising the vision that no refugee should be alone in the UK.
Find out more at www.welcomechurches.org
Is your church involved in building a more hospitable environment? If so, we’d love to hear and share your stories. Get in touch here.
Look out for further blogs in the ‘welcoming environment’ series over the coming weeks, at this time of year when we are reminded of how the newborn Jesus was laid in a manger because there was no room at the inn, and that his early years were spent as a refugee in Egypt.
Posted: 04 Dec 2018 05:29 AM PST
European church leaders have affirmed the values of dignity, respect and compassion for refugees and migrants. On 4 December, a Christmas statement, signed by more than thirty church leaders from Europe and beyond, was jointly issued by the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME) and the Conference of European Churches (CEC). It was presented to Mairead McGuinness, First Vice-President of the European Parliament in Brussels.
Signatories from the UK include:
The signatories of the statement come from diverse church traditions across Europe, including Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and African-Instituted, among others. At the same time, regional and international Christian organisations, chapters of Christian world communions and ecumenical organisations have endorsed the statement.
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Speaking after the handover ceremony, pictured above, European Parliament Vice President Mairead McGuiness commented, “This statement is timely, challenging and is really worth reading. It calls upon all of us who have strong shoulders to bear greater weight than those who have less strong shoulders. It reminds us that everyone has a responsibility and that we need to care and if we don’t care at Christmas time than what is the best time to care for those less fortunate.”
“We commit to more fervently articulating and working towards our vision of an inclusive and participatory society – for newly arrived and all inhabitants,” reads the statement.
Offering theological reflection on the story of Christmas and displacement, the statement subthemes read: “Jesus became human, Jesus the refugee, Jesus the stranger”. The statement features a Christian approach to action and policy in church and society arguing for safe passage to protection and realistic labour migration policies in Europe. The church leaders also stress the need for solidarity as a guiding principle for governing migration and refugee reception.
“While drafting the statement and collecting signatures we recognised how broad the consensus is on this topic among churches. This I see as sign of hope, just before Christmas, in the normally very bitter and controversial debate on this topic,” said CCME General Secretary, Torsten Moritz.
“This declaration signed by many Christian authorities in Europe points out the plight of those currently on the roads of exile and knocking at Europe’s doors,” said CEC President, Revd Christian Krieger. “We address this call to peoples and nations in Europe, to political leaders and the churches,” he added.
The post European church leaders unite for refugees and migrants appeared first on Joint Public Issues Team.
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