The Church of England, in response to recent events, has provided online material to help people in the North East welcome Afghan refugees in the community.
The toolkit provides a number of different prayer and theological resources from the Church of England, alongside details of charities and NGOs working to support refugees and asylum seekers.
The Right Reverend Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, who is the Church of England’s Lead Bishop for Refugees and Asylum, warns of an upcoming duty to “welcome these families and help them build new lives here in the United Kingdom”.
The Afghanistan Citizen’s Resettlement Scheme is due to welcome 5,000 Afghan citizens in one year, with a total of 20,000 in the long term. It is aimed at those in need who have been forced to flee Afghanistan, such as women, girls and children at risk.
There are a number of different ways in which your church can help. You may consider supporting national charities that have a long history of working with refugees. Examples include UNICEF, Save the Children, The British Red Cross, Afghan Welcome.
There are also a number of local organisations that are supporting incoming refugees, including St Vincent’s Centre – Newcastle, Darlington Assistance for Refugees and The North of England Refugee Service.
More local support includes the Welcome Churches initiative, in which churches can organise trained volunteers to deliver a box filled with small gifts and local information to refugees who have recently arrived in your area.
Perhaps your church could get involved in Community Sponsorship, in which individuals form a group and work together to prepare for and welcome a refugee family to their local area. The group will support the family through their first year in the UK, helping them lead independent lives, learn English and access schools, benefits, healthcare and employment in the community.
Seeking justice for refugees can also involve using our voice to convince politicians of the need for polices and actions that reflect a commitment to compassion and human dignity. Through Bishop Paul and the Right Reverend Christine Hardman, Bishop of Newcastle, who both sit in the House of Lords, the North East already engages in the political process, but we would always encourage every Christian concerned about refugee policy to seek ways of becoming involved, perhaps through contacting your local MP.
Information for your local politician is available here.
Your church may also wish to join politically-motivated groups for change, such as the Together With Refugees organisation, which have an active history of responding to political movements regarding refugees.
The toolkit also provides a number of prayers that your church may wish to engage in for the refugee community in Newcastle. Such examples include ‘Prayers for Refugees’.
For more information download the Toolkit for supporting Afghan Refugees, or seek guidance in your local parish.