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Responding to the refugee crisis 

Organisations have been highlighting different ways Christians can respond to the worsening refugee crisis


Syria refugeesOn Wednesday the Revd Lynn Green, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, issued a statement praising the grassroots response that has seen Baptists offer 250 spaces for Syrian refugees.

'We have been inspired by hearing of the generous response by Baptists to a campaign that encourages our churches to offer beds for Syrian refugees,' she said.

'As Christian believers, our first instinct, and indeed our Gospel calling, is to be a people of generosity and welcome. We therefore seek to support, encourage and enable the Baptists who have offered these spaces in whatever way we can.'

In calling for Baptists to offer generosity and welcome, she also highlighted our call to be a prophetic community, in particular by “calling upon political leaders across Europe and beyond to unite in common accord to address the sources of this crisis.“
She encouraged local churches to respond in four ways:

  • To explore afresh the Biblical perspectives within our Gospel tradition that inform our response to the refugee and stranger.
  • To respond through prayer both to the individual plight of the many thousands of people who continue to seek refuge, and for the political situations which both cause and offer resolution to this crisis.
  • To offer practical responses working as much as possible in partnership with other concerned citizens both from within our Christian community and beyond.
  • To contact their MPs to share concerns and inform future debates in Parliament 

There are many ways Baptists are already responding, in addition to offering beds for Syrian refugees.

BMS World Mission partners in Lebanon have long been working with refugees from Syria, ever since the civil war began in 2011. Lebanon currently has more than 1,100,000 registered Syrian refugees, according to the UNCHR, which acknowledged that figure is likely to be even higher. Its population is only 4 million.

Two years ago Nabil Costa, the Executive Director of the Lebanese Baptist Society (LSESD), and a BMS World Mission trustee, told The Baptist Times how Lebanese Baptists are reaching 25,000 Syrian refugees with a mix of food, medicine and shelter.
BMS personnel are also involved in serving refugees arriving in Italy. BMS ministers Ann and David MacFarlane have been among the compassionate faces refugees fleeing Syria, Eritrea, Nigeria and Somalia, have seen after braving the treacherous and expensive journey. When their church is alerted to the coming of a ship, the congregation team waits with water, clothes and food as the tired and scared refugees finally reach land.

BMS is also in consultation with EBAid: the European Baptist Federation has its annual council meeting later this month, where it will be gathering stories of migration and determining what its focus should be in offering help. BMS, which is committed to working with the most marginalised people, works with migrants in different contexts in Europe and around the world. It supports partners working with refugees and migrants in locations such as Iraq, South Sudan and Thailand as well as Lebanon, Syria, and Italy.

Elsewhere a Baptist church planter in Austria has detailed the short and long term response of Austrians, including those from his church, to the crisis. Yorkshire Baptists have been encouraged to sign a petition asking that the UK accepts more asylum seekers and increases support for refugee migrants in the UK. The petition is here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/105991

Baptist minister the Revd Phil Jump offered some reflections in response to the refugee crisis, which was shared through the Joint Public Issues Team. Baptists are working ecumenically through JPIT to explore how we might use our collective voice to call for an ongoing response that represents the values of God’s Kingdom.

Last week the Evangelical Alliance called on its member churches to respond with “prayer, practical care and compassion”. It issued five actions: 

  1. Pray: the Evangelical Alliance’s director of prayer has written a prayer which can be used at services this weekend to focus attention on the refugee crisis and our response.
  2. Give: many relief and development organisations are working in Syria and surrounding countries and their special funds provide an opportunity to give towards practical assistance. These include Christian Aid, Tearfund, World Vision UK and Open Doors.
  3. Open: whether it’s through linking a rental property with a local authority to house resettled refugees or providing a spare room, are there ways we can use what we have to help those in need? Citizens UK are campaigning for local authorities to agree to resettle more refugees, and Home for Good are collecting names of potential foster carers for unaccompanied minors.
  4. Act: many charities work with refugees in the UK. One such charity is Refugee Support Network which provides mentors for young people specifically to help them in their education.
  5. Campaign: while there are significant complexities to this current crisis, and the many surrounding issues, we cannot be silent. The Evangelical Alliance is calling for its members to contact MPs across the UK asking them to speak up in support of refugees.

Krish Kandiah, member of the leadership team at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Thame and founder of Home for Good, produced a widely circulated short film which highlighted how many biblical characters were refugees, and outlined five practical responses. More than 9,000 people have volunteered to foster refugee and migrant children fleeing the crisis in the Middle East. His church was also featured in the Guardian discussing ways to respond to the crisis.
Also writing in Christian Today, Embrace CEO Jeremy Moodey highlighted five things you should NOT do to help.

Picture: András D Hajdú/IRIN

How is your church responding to the refugee crisis? Contact media@baptist.org.uk

Baptist Times, 09/09/2015
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