What can I do to support refugees? – Information for churches in Oxford

        

Material Support

 

Fundraise for a local refugee support group or charity

Hold a concert, sale, tea dance, quiz night … (the possibilities are endless) or take part in a sponsored challenge event, with the proceeds going to a local charity or group supporting refugees, e.g. Asylum Welcome, Refugee Resource, or Sanctuary Hosting. Ask for the charity’s support in organising this.

Odette Gbeve, Development Officer, Asylum Welcome  (www.asylum-welcome.org)

development@asylum-welcome.org   01865 722082

               Refugee Resource (www.refugeeresource.org.ukinfo@refugeeresource.org  01865 403280

Sanctuary Hosting (www.sanctuaryhosting.org)     info@sanctuaryhosting.org  07818 555986

 

Collect food and toiletries for Asylum Welcome clients

Asylum seekers are not allowed to work and often have very limited funds. Place a box in the church for collecting food and toiletries for  asylum seekers in Oxford. Asylum Welcome can provide labels for collection boxes and a list of most needed items. Encourage the whole congregation to donate items and when full deliver it to Asylum Welcome’s office at 7 Newtec Place, Magdalen Road, OX4 1RE, open weekdays from 9.30am to 4.00pm. Alternatively order online for direct delivery: instructions are at http://www.asylum-welcome.org/donate/food-donations.

Asylum Welcome  (www.asylum-welcome.org)   food@asylum-welcome.org   01865 722082

 

Prepare food for refugees in northern France

Spend a few days, or more, as a kitchen volunteer in Calais with a charity providing food for displaced people living rough in difficult conditions in northern France.

Refugee Community Kitchen  (www.refugeecommunitykitchen.com) refugeecommunitykitchen@gmail.com

 

Donate to help refugees and internally displaced people overseas

The vast majority of refugees are hosted in countries near their country of origin: most Syrian refugees, for example, are in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.  Many charities are working to assist refugees and internally displaced people in the countries hosting them. These charities include:

 

Personal Support

 

Help with social activities for refugees

Social activities are great for individuals’ wellbeing, improving language skills, and integration and also help promote community cohesion. Help with existing activities or start something new.

 

Volunteer with Asylum Welcome

Asylum Welcome is the largest charity supporting refugees and asylum seekers in Oxford. With a small team of staff and trustees and over 150 volunteers it provides a wealth of services and advocacy. You could volunteer on reception (half a day a week), or visit a detainee in Campsfield House regularly (2 hours a week) , offering them emotional support and passing on any issues to Asylum Welcome’s Detainee Support Team. Other roles include those providing information, advice and support to detainees or to asylum seekers and refugees who come to the office (two half days a week). Training is provided. If you are interested in any volunteer role with Asylum Welcome, attend one of the information sessions held every few weeks – dates and further details on the website  (www.asylum-welcome.org/volunteer)

Asylum Welcome    volunteer@asylum-welcome.org    01865 7220

 

Mentor a refugee

As a volunteer with Refugee Resource, meet with a refugee for about 2 hours a week or fortnight in the daytime. Listen, help and support people as they seek to gain access to services, social activities, education and work. Training is provided.

Refugee Resource    ruthh@refugeeresource.org    01865 403292

 

Educational mentoring for young people

As a volunteer with the Refugee Support Network, meet for an hour a week with a young unaccompanied refugee (aged 15 to 21) to help them progress in education, e.g. by working on an aspect of their homework or classwork which they find challenging.

Torie Stubbs, Mentoring Coordinator – Oxford, Refugee Support Network (www.refugeesupportnetwork.org)

tstubbs@refugeesupportnetwork.org  07562262718

 

Give language help to resettled Syrian families

If you speak Arabic, volunteer to assist support workers with recently resettled Syrian families. Or if you have an ESOL qualification, volunteer to teach them English.

Connection Support  (www.connectionsupport.org.uk/projects/svprs) volunteer@connectionsupport.org.uk   07799110037

 

Tutor a refugee family member

If you are a university student in Oxford you can register as a volunteer tutor and be linked with a refugee family.

Talisu (www.tasilu.org)  tasilu.tutoring@gmail.com

 

Host a homeless asylum seeker, refugee or vulnerable migrant

Many refugees in the UK experience destitution, for example when their asylum claim is refused or when they are granted refugee status but are then left without any benefits or housing. Award-winning local charity Sanctuary Hosting can help you host a homeless asylum seeker, refugee or vulnerable migrant rent free in your spare room for an agreed period of time. Share not only your home but also social and cultural experiences, supported throughout by a volunteer support worker.

Elaine Savage, Service Coordinator, Sanctuary Hosting (www.sanctuaryhosting.org)

               info@sanctuaryhosting.org  07818555986

 

 

Community Sponsorship of a Syrian refugee family

Form a group offering  full support to enable a Syrian refugee family to be resettled to Oxford under the government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme. Groups need to work under the auspices of a charity and are responsible for organising accommodation, welcome, orientation, English language instruction, and help accessing services and employment. This may sound daunting, but there is much assistance and advice available from Sponsor Refugees and Blackfriars Oxford, a local church which has already done this, as well as from Oxford City Council and local refugee support charities. Community Sponsorship is a really tangible and personal way of responding to the needs of refugees and can be an extremely positive experience for the group too.

Shirley Hoy of Blackfriars Refugee Aidsenteniaconsulting@gmail.com

Blackfriars case study coming soon: www.ccow.org.uk/what-we-work-on/refugees-and-forced-migration/

Bekele Woyecha at Sponsor Refugees (www.sponsorrefugees.org) communitysponsorship@citizensuk.org  07504001756

 

 

Advocacy & Awareness Raising

 

Organise an event for Refugee Week

Refugee week, in June each year, is a UK-wide programme of arts, cultural and educational events and activities that celebrates the contribution of refugees to the UK and promotes better understanding of why people seek sanctuary. Get ideas and tips on organising your event, as well as events listings, from the Refugee Week website.

               Refugee Week (www.refugeeweek.org.uk) brightonandhove@cityofsanctuary.org

 

 

Campaign on behalf of refugees – petitions, letters, lobbying MPs and Councils

Refugees suffer many injustices and hardships, overseas and in the UK, and there is much which needs improving. You can help change policy and practice affecting refugees. Keep informed of the issues and latest petitions and campaigns by signing up for CCOW’s quarterly email Refugee Support Newsletter and/or emails or mailings, from refugee charities.

CCOW (Christian Concern for One World) (www.ccow.org.uk) joanna@ccow.org.uk 07774474601

Refugee Council (www.refugeecouncil.org.uk)

               Safe Passage (www.safepassage.org.uk)

               CTBI (Churches Together in Britain and Ireland) Focus on Refugees

                               (www.focusonrefugees.org)

               Close Campsfield (www.closecampsfield.wordpress.com)

 

This resource was prepared by Christian Concern for One World (CCOW) in October 2018.

 

For over two decades, CCOW has been working with Christians who seek to discern what ‘doing justice,’ ‘loving kindness,’ and  ‘walking humbly with God’ mean for us in our globalised world.

 

 

For further information or to request that information be added to future editions of this resource, please contact Joanna Schüder, CCOW’s Churches Refugee Networking Officer on joanna@ccow.org.uk or 07774474601.

 

Refugee Support Newsletter – September 2018

In this newsletter
  • Communications Event

  • Resources

  • News from Local Groups

  • Upcoming events and actions

Communications Event

Would your group or organisation like to do some joint thinking about strategic communications, both among ourselves and externally? Then please join us on Thursday, 11th October, 9.30am – 12.30pm, at Wesley Memorial Church, Oxford, for a session led by media consultant Jillian Moody. Jillian ran the  communications workshops at our “Partnerships of Hope” conference and offered to facilitate this follow-up in response to participants’ feedback.  There is also the option to bring your lunch and eat together afterwards. Please let Joanna know if you would like to come (joanna@ccow.org.uknew phone: 07774 474601)

Resources

Refugee Resource Centre for Churches

This very useful site, not just for churches, brings together the latest briefings and research reports on refugee matters by a range of agencies.

End Hostility

The Joint Public Issues Team (the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Church of Scotland, Methodist Church and United Reformed Church working together for peace and justice) has launched this report calling for an end to the “hostile environment” and challenging churches and individuals to act.

Slipping through the cracks and Tipping the scales

Two recent reports by Refugee Action highlight problems within the UK asylum system: delays in being granted support and barriers to access to legal advice.

Migrant Health Intelligence Pack

This report on migrant health in the South East, by Public Health England and the South East Strategic Partnership on Migration, gives facts, figures and links to resources, including on entitlement to services.

Global Trends – Forced Displacement in 2017

The UNHCR provides a comprehensive picture of the current global refugee situation with pictures, graphs, case studies and statistics.

Safe Passage: Advocating for a humane asylum and migration policy in Europe

The Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe recently published this booklet which analyses issues associated with the current system for dealing with migration. As well as thoroughly explaining the basis for rights in European and international law and debunking some myths, the author suggests what churches (and others) can do to improve the situation.

Forced Migration Review

Published about three times a year by the Refugee Studies Centre in the Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford, these journals are available free of charge in print and online in English, French, Spanish and Arabic. Each issue contains a wealth of articles on a particular topic, e.g. Economies: rights and access to work, Syrians in displacement, Resettlement.

News from Local Groups

Asylum Welcome needs a new venue near Cowley Rd, Oxford, for its youth club for unaccompanied young refugees. It is now too large for its current venue (35 attendees 1 evening a week) and they don’t want to turn people away.

Kama Oxford , a new project enabling refugees, asylum seekers and migrants to share their skills and passions with others, recently held its first teacher training workshop. Volunteer mentors and teachers are now being matched up. So look out for workshops on subjects such as Arabic language and culture, Middle-Eastern cookery, embroidery and computing starting soon.

Marlow Refugee Action raised over £800 at their July garden party towards the legal centre for refugees on Samos, which is now up and running.

Sanctuary Hosting which provides shelter to homeless vulnerable migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, needs more volunteer hosts in Oxford, Reading and Milton Keynes. Please help publicise using this information sheet.

Upcoming Events and Actions

Sign the Refugee Council’s petition asking the Home Secretary to change unfair rules keeping refugee families apart.

Sign Sign Safe Passage’s petition to Theresa May to resettle 10,000 child refugees over the next 10 years.

Saturday, 15th – Sunday, 30th September – Art Exhibition about Refugees (Oxford)

Friday, 21st September –  ‘Should it be a crime to rescue refugees?’ Talk and discussion (Charlbury)

Saturday, 22nd September – Sanctuary Hosting volunteer training (Oxford)

Sunday, 23rd September – Talk by artists at ‘Exodus’ art exhibition (Oxford)

Sunday, 7th October  – Recital in aid of Charlbury Refugee Action Group (Charlbury)

Friday, 12th October – Meet the author evening for Brightwell Supporting Refugees (Brightwell-cum-Sotwell)

Thursday, 18th October – Lecture by UNWRA Commissioner-General (Oxford)

Sunday, 21st October – Apple Day stall in aid of Brightwell Supporting Refugees (Brightwell-cum-Sotwell)

Saturday, 27th October – Walk the Thames in support of Bail for Immigration Detainees (London)

Now until 3 November – ‘The Jungle’, a play about refugees in Calais, has a limited West End run (London)

Monday, 26th November – Quiz night in aid of Brightwell Supporting Refugees (Brightwell-cum-Sotwell)

The CCOW events calendar is updated regularly with events of interest on this and other topics. Take a look!

Refugee Week, Working Together for Refugees, Sharing the Journey of Migrants and Refugees: 17 to 23 June

In this email:

  • Refugee Week 
  • Working Together for Refugees
  • Sharing the Journey of Migrants and Refugees

One theme of this week’s Revised Common Lectionary readings is God’s use of what is seemingly small and insignificant to do great things for God’s Kingdom. It’s a reminder that all of us, however apparently small or great, are made in the image and likeness of God and can be the source of great blessings by God’s grace. As we approach Refugee Week, how can we promote this sense of the preciousness and potential for blessing in each person?

Refugee Week

Refugee Week takes place from the 18th to the 24th of this month – and our email pieces this week have positive stories to tell about work that is happening locally and about a conference held at the UN looking at faith responses to refugees.

We need positive stories since it often feels that, as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad al Hussein, recently said, we are moving “backwards to an era of contempt for the rights of people who have been forced to flee or leave their homes because the threats they face are more dangerous even than the perils of their voyage.” In recent stories from Europe alone, Italy and Malta refused to admit the SS Aquarius rescue ship; a report stated that French police mistreat child refugees; measures were proposed that could criminalise helping migrants seek asylum in Hungary;  and Caroline Lucas spoke of the psychological impact of the UK’s use of  indefinite detention.  And there are many more examples from other countries.

Please pray fervently for the safety and well-being of all who have been forced to flee their homes. We would also encourage you also to show your concern for refugees by coming to some of the varied local events celebrating Refugee Week.

Working Together for Refugees

Only about 0.2% of the world’s refugees are hosted by the UK, according to UN statistics, and the Thames Valley has become home to only a small proportion of those. But our area has a long history of welcoming people seeking asylum and continues to do so, including, since 2015, through the government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS).

Many Christians and others of goodwill across the Thames Valley have felt moved to assistrefugees, both those overseas and those on our doorstep. CCOW is helping network these churches, groups and individuals, and to connect and resource those who are interested in joining them. If you’d like to know more about the groups we work with, or explore some of the resources we offer, see our webpage.

A major step in bringing people together was “Partnerships of Hope – Working Together for Refugees”, organised by CCOW at New Road Baptist Church in Oxford on 21st April 2018. Around 100 people took part, all active in supporting refugees or interested in doing so. During the day’s talks, workshops and networking times, the harsh realities faced by refugees and the frustrations and challenges experienced by those wanting to help were voiced. But the atmosphere of the day was extremely positive, as we also heard and learned from many examples of good practice and great achievements for and by refugees. You can read the summary of the day here.

Among the themes emerging from “Partnerships of Hope” was a desire for more networking opportunities, ongoing communication between the different groups supporting refugees and more effective external communication. In response, we are planning a day in the Autumn, kindly facilitated by Jillian Moody, media consultant, for the groups to think through communications strategies. We’re also thinking of networking local churches engaged in assisting refugees, by creating an online forum and organising a retreat day.

Please pray

  • for people who have come here as refugees. Pray that they would be made welcome and receive whatever help they need as they integrate into the UK
  • for local groups and organisations seeking to walk alongside refugees, for adequate funds and volunteers and good communications
  • for a greater culture of welcome and celebration of diversity in the UK
  • for more local churches and individuals to engage with topics relating to refugees and forced migration, and to get involved
  • for wisdom and direction for CCOW’s ongoing work around refugees and forced migration

Action Point: Please contact Joanna if you are interested in any aspect of our work around refugees.

Sharing the Journey of Migrants and Refugees  

This is less about subtle negotiations of words and phrases, and more fully about real people’s lives.”

Revd. Rachel Carnegie, Co-Executive Director of the Anglican Alliance


In September this year, two major new compacts on migration and refugees will be presented for adoption by member states at the United Nations General Assembly. The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration will be the first global agreement negotiated under the auspices of the UN that addresses ‘all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner’. The complementary Global Compact on Refugees seeks to establish a wide-ranging and more equitable global response to large movements of refugees and protracted refugee situations. It is hoped that this response will better support both refugees and the communities that host them.

Both compacts will have involved almost two years of consultations and negotiations following the New York Declaration in December 2016.

Ahead of the latest round of consultations on the compacts, Caritas Internationalis and the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN recently co-hosted an interfaith conference at the United Nations in New York. Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist leaders brought different perspectives to the question of how the global community can achieve effective international cooperation and shared responsibility to alleviate the suffering and build hope for millions of refugees and migrants. The voices of migrants and refugees were also heard. Reverend Rachel Carnegie, the co-executive director of the Anglican Alliance, was invited to offer the concluding remarks at this significant event.

We’ve excerpted some of the discussions here; you can read a fuller summary involving all the participants on our website.

Faith based organisations not only relevant but crucial

In his opening remarks, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See at the UN, who chaired the session, described how faith-based organisations provide so much of the infrastructure for the immediate and long term support for refugees and migrants. He talked of a person-centred, holistic approach, helping refugees and migrants to achieve their full potential while enriching their new societies through the exchange of talents and culture. “Even when [a migrant] is of a different faith, many know of the reputation of faith based organisations to extend care to anyone in need, because of the principles of charity, mercy and solidarity flowing from that faith. Faith based organisations start not from political or economic perspectives, but from the affirmation of the human dignity of all people before all else. This person-centred approach, while not unique to faith based organisations, is at the heart of all their work. It also inspires a more holistic approach to caring for the migrant and their families, rather than addressing migration simply as a political or economic problem. Faith based organisations typically address the needs of every person as an individual in communion with others and the common good of all society.”

After outlining the wide range of practical responses of faith based organisations in the care of migrants, Archbishop Auza said, “During negotiations towards the global compacts there has been discussion on the role of faith based organisations. Some have questioned their relevance but as today’s event hopes to show, we are not only relevant but crucial to help migrants and refugees and also to the work of states in caring for them. The pivotal part they play in welcoming, protecting, promoting, integrating and sharing the journey of migrants and refugees should be noted and lifted up as an example for all of civil society and receive explicit reference in the global compacts.”

There must have been a refugee or migrant in all our pasts

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the President of Caritas Internationalis and the Archbishop of Manila, reflected on the guiding principles set out by Pope Francis – the four verbs that articulate our shared responsibility – to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants and refugees at all stages of their journey. He reflected on his own family history of migration, and said,

“We invite everyone here never to forget that in our families, clans or peoples there must have been a migrant or a refugee some time, somewhere. In their name the God of Israel calls us to love the stranger, but will we remember or choose to forget? …. Christians believe that Jesus migrated from the condition of being God’s glorious son to that of being a lowly human being. As a baby he became a refugee in Egypt with his parents to escape the ire of Herod. He praised outsiders in his stories, like the Good Samaritan, and presented strangers as models of faith, such as the woman of Samaria at the well, the grateful Samaritan healed of leprosy, the persistent Syro-Phoenician mother, the Roman centurion who cared for his servant and believed his word, and to cap it all, Jesus identified himself with strangers. ‘When I was a stranger, you made me welcome’ (Matthew 25) declaring that what we do, or fail to do, to strangers we do, or fail to do, for him.

For Christians a stranger has a human face – the face of Jesus”.

To turn one’s back on migrants is to turn one’s back on God himself

Rabbi David Rosen, the International Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee, spoke about the duty of a society to its own citizens, alongside its obligation to maximalise human dignity and freedom for all – preventing exploitation, and enabling safe and secure passage for people on the move – as well as ensuring decent living and social conditions for refugees and migrants. As did Cardinal Tagle, Rabbi Rosen reflected on the Biblical mandate to care for the “stranger” and the centrality of the experience of migration to the Biblical narrative.

“We are commanded not only to love our neighbour in the Bible, but also specifically to love and empathise with others who seek to dwell in our community…. The Hebrew word ‘ger’ that is commonly translated as stranger is better translated in terms of the meaning in Hebrew as sojourner. … As it is written in Leviticus and Exodus, ‘for you know the soul of the sojourner for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt’. The ancient Jewish sages point out that our historical sojourner experience is referred to more than anything else in the Hebrew Bible, some 36 times, precisely in order to serve as inspiration for our moral conduct.

“Not for nothing does the history of Biblical salvation begin with a story of a migrant, Abraham, who leaves his birth place in Ur of the Chaldees, in today’s Iraq, for a better future for himself and his family, to contribute to a better future for humanity…. The orientating event of Biblical sacred history is the emigration experience, being delivered from persecution and journeying towards a better future in a promised land.

“To turn one’s back on another in need, but especially those whose very existence is vulnerable, most dramatically evidenced in the plight of refugees and migrants, and especially the children among them, is to turn one’s back on God himself.”


Otherness does not start with the other. It starts with ourselves

Metropolitan Emmanuel Adamakis, Metropolitan of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of France, spoke of faith communities as bridge builders. He talked of the need to re-humanise the other, through encounter, reflecting in particular on the responsibility to care for young people on the move seeking safer lives, better opportunities, futures of hope.

“Most people want to reside and prosper in the land of their birth. This is natural. Yet to do so they require safety, food security, economic opportunity, freedom from environmental distress and prospects for their children’s future. Forced migration is the result of war, poverty and environmental degradation and climate change that compel people to leave their homelands. Because of these factors we are currently facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. And the face of the migrant is increasingly a youthful face. For the first time in history, half of all refugees are children and youths and one in every 200 children in the world today is a refugee.

“ ‘Otherness’ is another item connected to migration. It is a perception based on our territory. The imagined ‘other’ is often part of a narrative in which the definition of oneself comes with limits and borders… Speaking about identity or even multiple identities remains a taboo in many societies because it goes against the grand narrative of many nation states that base the concept of national identity on this grand national narrative. However, globalization continues to challenge the ethno-national model and exposes us to ethnic, religious and cultural otherness to a degree never before seen in the history of the world…. Otherness does not start with the other. It starts with ourselves – with the many layers of identity that make a person unique.

“We must continue to think that we are bridge builders rather than the builders of walls. And we must bring hope and peace to this world that it needs more and more today.”

A key theme running through the session was the importance of bringing a human face to the statistics of migration and to acknowledge all that migrants and refugees contribute to their new societies.

The moment I was on my feet, I wanted to help and give back

A refugee from Iraq shared his own story. He spoke of how before the Iraq war of 2003 his family had lived a very comfortable life in Iraq. After the war, as people were being kidnapped and killed his family resisted moving, determined to stay in their home country. Even when his family was robbed at gunpoint in their home, his parents still would not leave the country. ‘Leaving the country – for anyone it’s a big decision’, he said. ‘It’s really, really hard’.

Another year later, in 2006, he was kidnapped and a ransom demanded. For 9 days he was tortured. On his release the family was told they would be killed should they be seen again in Baghdad, at which point they finally decided to flee the country. Leaving with hardly anything, they went first to Syria where their passports were stamped ‘not allowed to work’ on entry. ‘Imagine starting a new life somewhere you can’t work’, he said. ‘How’s that going to work?’

With the family’s life savings completely used up, the family applied to the UN for refugee status and after two years of vetting the family was given the opportunity to move to the US.

‘We’re very grateful that we’re here, but it’s not easy. Being a refugee in a new country with new language, new everything – I almost felt that I was in a different world’. Watching his parents, ‘the strongest two people in my life’, struggle with the challenges of their new life – worrying about how they would find work, provide food and pay their bills – motivated him to work three jobs along with his college studies so he could help his family. ‘The moment that I felt I was on my feet, the first thing that came to my mind was that I wanted to help and give back to the community. I’ve been working for a charity since 2012 helping immigrants, refugees and people from here just helping whoever needs help. I am just one example out of millions.’

Representatives from various member states of the UN attended the session and were warm in their appreciation for the faith perspective and contribution to inform the upcoming negotiations. Maria Rubiales de Chamorro, the Permanent Representative of Nicaragua to the UN, said, ‘As a member state of this organisation, I am very happy and glad that I came. It is not every day that you see such an inclusive panel… A better world is possible, we all know that, but it has to take a lot of understanding from our part… This has been very clarifying for me… we thank you for giving us a very clear vision. My delegates and I are going into the next stage of negotiations with the four points you have mentioned very clearly: welcome, promote, protect and integrate’.

Ambassador Saint Hilaire of Haiti also expressed his gratitude for all the panel were doing. ‘Your actions are very inspiring to us as member states, he said. ‘You are making the difference. Thank you so much’.

Keep the image of a migrant or refugee actively present in our minds

In her concluding reflections, Revd. Rachel Carnegie appealed to all to ‘keep the image of a migrant or refugee known personally to us actively present in our minds as the discussions move forward’.

And she articulated four key challenges for the journey ahead:

  1. How can we make the Global Compacts a vision of hope, of humanity and our common good?
  2. How can we make them stronger in upholding the dignity of migrants and refugees?
  3. How can we overcome our internal barriers and become inclusive societies in an interconnected world?
  4. How can we renew, as the United Nations of the world’s peoples, our commitment for peace, solidarity and justice?

Please pray:

  • that the ongoing negotiations around the global compacts will result in documents that genuinely offer a vision of hope, humanity and our common good.
  • for all who are working to assure recogntion at local, national and international level of the dignity of migrants and refugees
  • in thanksgiving for the work people of faith are doing to promote the dignity of migrants and refugees      

Refugee Support Newsletter – June 2018

In this newsletter

  • ‘Partnerships of Hope’ Follow-Up

  • News from local groups

  • New developments

  • Resources

  • Upcoming events and actions

POH lunch
POH speaker

‘Partnerships of Hope’ Follow-Up

On Saturday 21st April 2018, CCOW organised ‘Partnerships of Hope – Working Together for Refugees’ at New Road Baptist Church in Oxford. There was an extremely positive atmosphere as people learned from one another, shared experiences and made connections. Find further details, photos and links to resources on our conference webpage.

Jillian Moody, who ran the two communications workshops, has generously offered to facilitate an event in the Autumn to help Thames Valley groups and organisations working for refugees do some joint thinking about strategic communications, both among ourselves and externally. If you would be interested, please contact Joanna

News from Local Groups

Asylum Welcome is very happy to come and give a talk to any group that would like to learn more about refugees from people working with them first-hand.
Asylum Welcome is also recruiting for 4 roles: Finance and Contracts Manager (3 days a week), Fundraising and Development Manager (full time), Development Officer (3 days a week), Office Manager (15 hours a week). The closing date is 12 o’clock midday on Thursday 21st June.

Wycombe Refugee Partnership (WRP) has so far resettled 17 refugee families and couples with leave to remain. One of the most difficult challenges is finding short-term temporary accommodation while a suitable long-term rental property is sought. Chilterns Area Quaker Meeting is coming to the rescue by using legacy money to buy a three-bedroom house to be leased to WRP at a peppercorn rent for five years in the first instance. WRP will use it to provide emergency, temporary accommodation to families whom it has agreed to house long-term in High Wycombe. The property will be called Mellor House, in memory of the couple who left the legacy.

Marlow Refugee Action (MRA) has been considering its focus going forward. It plans to work with Wycombe Refugee Partnership and Refuaid to support refugees locally and Samos Volunteers giving legal advice to asylum seekers on the Greek island. MRA has also begun work in Marlow schools and hopes later to create links with schools in refugee camps.

Churches in Bicester Refugee Support Group is about to welcome its 6th Syrian family. A team of volunteers from the Bicester churches are hard at work furnishing and equipping the house, bought by a group of investors under the Hope Into Action scheme. As Cherwell District Council has now approved plans to house a further 6 families another 6 houses will need to be found. Please do get in touch if you know of a property that could be rented out at housing benefit rate.

Sanctuary Hosting has a new Service Manager Ana Novakovic, covering Sarah Wahby’s maternity leave.

KAMA Oxford is a new project enabling refugees, asylum seekers and migrants to share their skills and passions with others. It wants to celebrate the richness of cultures migration has brought to the UK and give refugees and asylum seekers a voice, confidence, skills for their future, fun and humanity.

New Developments

NHS no longer required to share immigrants’ details with Home Office

NHS data had been given to the Home Office to check immigration status, which undermined confidentiality and made many fearful of accessing healthcare. Refugee and health care groups therefore welcomed that this practice has stopped.

Inspector’s report on VPRS

The recently published report by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration found the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) processes to be essentially effective and so anticipated that the target of resettling 20,000 refugees by May 2020 would be met. Some recommendations for improvement were made, not all of which were accepted by the Home Office.

Resources

Community Sponsorship Guide

Caritas Social Action Network and Caritas Salford, the first organisation to welcome a Syrian family to the UK under the Community Sponsorship scheme, have produced this guide to help those considering Community Sponsorship think through the process and develop a sound plan.

Updated Briefing for ministers

The Joint Public Issues Team have updated their briefing for members of the clergy called to give evidence in support of asylum applications. It gives general advice about the asylum process, providing written evidence, and asylum hearings and contains an example of a statement.

Booklet on Supporting English Language Learning

This booklet has been produced by Churches Together in the Merseyside Region to accompany their “Welcoming the Stranger” guide.

Short film “The Peace Between”

Could your church or community group screen this new film? It features three friendships between a European and an asylum seeker or refugee. The film offers an opportunity to open dialogue by hosting a discussion event at your screening – full resources provided.

Podcasts from Refugee Studies Centre

Recordings of public seminars given at the Refugee Studies Centre (University of Oxford) can now be heard on SoundCloud.

Upcoming Events and Actions

Sign Citizens UK’s petition to extend VPRS beyond 2020

Friday, June 15th – Refugee Week: Launch evening of exhibition, Oxford

Sunday, June 17th – Refugee Week: Concert in aid of Host Abingdon, Sutton Courtenay

Monday and Tuesday, June 18th to 19th – Refugee Week: Exhibition – Origami Art in Immigration Detention, Milton Keynes

Tuesday, June 19th – Refugee Week: Community Café, Oxford

Tuesday, June 19th – Refugee Week: Film Screening “Human Flow”, Milton Keynes

Tuesday, June 19th – Refugee Week: Concert in aid of OKSA & Red Cross, Sutton Courtenay

Tuesday, June 19th – Refugee Week: Film “Human Flow”, Reading

Wednesday, June 20th – Refugee Week: Talk at Somerville College, Oxford

Wednesday, June 20th – Refugee Week: Film “Barbara Harrell-Bond: A life not ordinary”, Oxford

Wednesday, June 20th – – Refugee Week: Film “The Other Side of Hope”, Reading

Wednesday, June 20th – Refugee Week: Gathering in Campbell Park, Milton Keynes

Thursday, June 21st – – Refugee Week: Panel Event – Refuge or detention?, Milton Keynes

Thursday June 21st to Sunday, June 24th – – Refugee Week: Photography by Ania Ready, Eynsham

Friday, June 22nd – Refugee Week: Syrian Summer Banquet, Oxford

Friday, June 22nd – Refugee Week: Celebrating Freedom – An evening of Poetry and Music, Milton Keynes

Friday, June 22nd to Saturday, June 24th – Refugee Week: Tandem Music Festival, Ramsden

Saturday, July 7th – Brightwell Supporting Refugees stall at fete, Brightwell-cum-Sotwell

Saturday, July 7th – KAMA Oxford launch event, Oxford

Saturday, July 14th – Witney Refugee Action Group sewing session, Witney

Wednesday, August 1st – Slough Refugee Support summer party, Slough

Sunday, September 9th – Churches in Bicester Refugee Support Group open meeting, Bicester

The CCOW events calendar is updated regularly with events of interest on this and other topics. Take a look!

Refugee Support Newsletter – March 2018

  • Partnerships of Hope – 21st April

  • News from local groups

  • New developments and resources

  • Upcoming events and actions

PfH Poster

Partnerships of Hope – 21st April

Whether you’re already involved in supporting refugees, would like to be or are just exploring, this event organised by Christian Concern for One World is for you. A range of groups and organisations from across the Thames Valley will be participating in a programme which will include speakers, workshops on topics such as community sponsorship and working with the media, and stalls. It’s a great opportunity for information, networking and encouragement. Free to attend, £5 with lunch. Registration essential – go to www.ccow.org.uk/events/partnerships-of-hope. For further information please contact Joanna Schüder, CCOW’s Refugee Networking Officer on joanna@ccow.org.ukor 07823 686568.

News from Local Groups

Asylum Welcome

Asylum Welcome is currently dealing with several people who are street homeless and who have been very glad to be in their cosy offices during the day. They are making them hot food in addition to the usual food parcels. Items currently needed for Asylum Welcome’s foodbank: 1L cooking oil, UHT milk, 1kg sugar, toiletries, nappies, 1 kg flour, long life juice, dried fruit and nuts. Asylum Welcome is also running an allotment, so if anyone is in touch with refugees who like growing things, then please put them in touch with John Fenning at Asylum Welcome. Contact him also about the Adopt a Room scheme, whereby an individual or group can commit to kit out one room in a house for a newly arrived refugee family

Marlow Refugee Action Group

in collaboration with Churches Together in Marlow and Churches Together in Maidenhead has an initiative, reported in the local press, to encourage volunteers to help refugees in Calais over the period of Lent by serving in the kitchens and warehouse there for a few days. 22 people have signed up so far.

New Developments and Resources

Hope for more refugee children to come to UK
Following an agreement between the UK and French governments at the end of January unaccompanied refugee children who arrived in Europe between March 2016 and January 2018 will now also be eligible to come to the UK under the Dubs scheme.

Immigration policy report highlights changes needed 
After eighteen months of considering evidence the Home Affairs Select Committee recently published its report Immigration policy: basis for building consensus. It recommends that the government proactively challenge myths and inaccuracies about immigration, honour its commitments to unaccompanied child refugees and establish a permanent Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme.

New Resource on Refugees and Mental Health
City of Sanctuary has produced an excellent information pack designed to help people understand the journeys that refugees and asylum seekers have been through that put pressure on their mental health. It includes advice and resources for helping refugees with mental health problems.

Seeking Reform of Family Reunion
Oxfam and the Refugee Council have published a new report “Safe but not Settled: The Impact of Family Separation on Refugees in the UK”. It calls for the government to expand the qualification criteria for family reunion.

Human Flow film by Ai Weiwei
If you missed the recent screenings of this powerful documentary on global migration and would like to show it at a church, school or group you can register your interest with the producers.

New Book about Syria
New book about Syria For those interested in learning more about the history of Syria as a land to which refugees came and now which refugees are leaving, Dawn Chatty has written “Syria – The Making and Unmaking of a Refuge State.”

Upcoming Events and Actions


Sunday, 17 March – Refugees Welcome Bloc at the March against Racism

Saturday, 7 April – Sanctuary Hosting volunteer information day

Saturday, 21 April – ‘Partnerships of Hope: Working Together for Refugees

Friday, 11 May – Quiz and Raffle for Witney Refugee Action

Sunday, 20 May – ‘Bike Oxford to Support Asylum Welcome

The CCOW events calendar is updated regularly with events of interest on this and other topics. Take a look!

Refugee Support Newsletter – December 2017

In this newsletter

  • New developments and resources

  • News from local groups

  • Upcoming events and actions

New developments and resources

New Refugee Officer

In CCOW’s work on migration and refugees, we realised that many churches are keen to engage with the people and wider issues involved, but need personal support and contact with a network. So after discussions with others in our area who are working with refugees we developed the new role of Churches Refugee Networking Officer. Joanna Schüder works ten hours a week in the new post. You can contact her on joanna@ccow.org.uk or 07823686568

CCOW website

A new section of the CCOW website focuses on refugees and forced migration. It includes: an interactive map showing where refugee support groups in the Thames Valley are located, information about refugees and ways to support them, inspiring case studies of local groups, and a Guide to Online Worship Resources. We hope it’s useful: let us know what you think.

Welcoming Syrian refugees

This downloadable brochure from Citizens UK and others is full of helpful guidance on all steps of community organisation and also offers a link to many further useful documents and templates. Highly recommended.

Foundation for Community Sponsorship of Refugees

In July 2016, the Government launched the community sponsorship scheme, which allows community groups to take on the responsibility of resettling refugee families. On 9th October Citizen’s UK launched Sponsor Refugees, their Foundation for Community Sponsorship of Refugees, which offers support and training for faith and community groups considering or going through the process of becoming a community sponsor. Their website has information on this support, as well as stories of what groups involved are doing.

New research and analysis by Refugee Action  

New research has found that there is inadequate English language provision nationally for refugees, with people having to waiting months, even years to start ESOL classes. Refugee Action is calling on the Government to commit to providing a minimum of eight hours per week of ESOL lessons, to which resettled Syrian refugees are already entitled, for all refugees in Britain.

Refugee Action has also analysed the latest Home Office figures on immigration. They find that as of September 2017,  9,394 people had been welcomed through the government’s Syrian refugee resettlement programme, putting Britain on track to meet its target of welcoming 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020. But despite asylum applications overall falling by 21% year on year, the number of people waiting for more than the Government’s target of 6 months for a decision on their claim has risen by 27% to 10,552 … nearly half of all claimants.

News from Local Groups

Wycombe Refugee Partnership

has been awarded one of two 2017 Wilson/Hinkes Peace Awards in recognition of their work resettling refugee families. This was followed by another peace award – from the World Peace Flame Foundation. Congratulations to Wycombe Refugee Partnership and all its volunteers.

Brightwell Supporting Refugees

At the beginning of September, some members visited the schools for Syrian refugee children in Jordan which the group is supporting. They met refugees and charity workers, took donated laptops and tablets which are now in use in the classroom, and gained deeper insight to inspire and inform the group’s work.

Marlow Refugee Action

celebrated its first anniversary in October and launched its Winter Aid Appeal. It’s asking for funds for winter boots for refugees in northern France and for donated items that will go to refugees across Europe and the Middle East.

Faringdon Syrian Refugees Group

has now helped to set up the 8th house for Syrian refugees in the Vale of White horse and South Oxfordshire area. They are working with the Red Cross to help the families arriving under the government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme.

Witney Refugee Action

held Asylum Sounds, a fantastic community festival with music, food and fun, showing welcome to the resettled refugee families.

Churches in Bicester Refugee Support Group

has started planning to buy, in shared ownership, a house in Bicester to accommodate Syrian refugees. Investors have already raised much of the capital, but they are still looking for some people who can invest at least £5,000 for 5 years.

Upcoming Events and Actions

The CCOW events calendar is updated regularly with events of interest on this and other topics. Take a look!

This email is sent by Christian Concern for One World.(CCOW), The Rectory, Church End, Blewbury OX11 9QH to  people who have expressed an interest in receiving information about our work with refugees.

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Information Sources: Refugees and Forced Migration

Where can you find …

Facts, figures and research relating to refugees:

British Red Cross
Facts and figures about refugees and asylum seekers, including the Myth-buster “Refugees and Asylum Seekers – Getting the story straight in 2016”.

City of Sanctuary

Definitions, links and resources by theme, including an excellent information pack on the journeys that refugees have been through that put pressure on their mental health.

International Organization for Migration (IOM) 
Offers a range of information from basic glossaries of terms to policy studies, news reports, materials using the arts – well worth exploring.

Migration Observatory
Based at Oxford University’s Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), Migration Observatory provides reports and briefings on various migration-related topics.

Refugee Council
The Refugee Council is a national charity supporting and advocating for refugees. Here you can find policy briefings, statistics, facts, training and a glossary of terms & definitions.

Refugees Reporting
A project of the World Association for Christian Communication – Europe(WACC Europe) and the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME), to assess media portrayal and representation of refugees in at eight European countries, engage with media professionals to highlight good practices; and develop action plans to promote the rights of refugees to communicate on their own behalf. Some very interesting research.

Refugee Studies Centre
Part of the Oxford Department of International Development at the University of Oxford, it seeks “to build knowledge and understanding of the causes and effects of forced migration in order to help improve the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable people” Website offers access to a  range of research across several key areas of refugee studies.

UNHCR
The United Nations Refugee Agency offers a huge range of information – everything from a “Facts at a Glance” page to detailed studies of refugee situations in particular locations.

UNICEF
Focuses on defending the rights of children – includes work on children who are forced to migrate.

 

News relating to refugees

Most of the sites above have news sections – and the major serious newspapers have done some excellent detailed reporting. In addition, you might wish to look at:

Focus on Refugees
A programme from Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. Good links to news items, case studies, etc.

Medecins sans Frontieres/Doctors without Borders (MSF)
Has a wide range of material because of its work providing rescue, medical care, and sanitation for refugees around the world – often an important place for news about recent developments.

Refugees Deeply 
Platform for reporting and analysis on refugees and the issues they face.

 

 

Care for Creation, Crisis for Rohingya, Prisons Week, Kenya: 8 to 14 Oct 2017

In this week’s prayer email:

  • Prayer for Creation
  • Crisis for Rohingya
  • Short Notes: Prison Week, Kenya, Keep on …

____________________________________________________________________________

Prayer for Creation

The 4th of October was St Francis’ Day, when many churches recall the saint who so beautifully expressed the way Creation reveals – and revels in – God’s love and glory. In honour of that, we’re releasing Elizabeth’s new prayer powerpoint of Pope Francis’ ‘Prayer in union with creation’.

It’s available to download from our website: we hope it will be a blessing to you and those with whom you share it.

Crisis for Rohingya

Long-time readers of the prayer email will know that concern for the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine State has been escalating for some time.

The group are in an area which has been a source of contention for centuries. Since Burma became independent in 1948, the Rohingya have experienced discrimination, and the majority were effectively rendered stateless by the government of Myanmar when citizenship laws were revised in 1982; they are not on the list of indigenous ethnic communities eligible for citizenship and their language is not recognised as an official language. The government labels them ‘Bengalis’ and, despite the fact that some Rohingya have lived in Rakhine State for centuries, it (and others in the country) regard them as having immigrated illegally during the time of British rule from the area that is now Bangladesh. In recent decades the Rohingya have repeatedly suffered the destruction of their property as well as violence against individuals, families and communities. On several occasions, there have been episodes of mass forced displacement: in both the late 1970s and early 1990s hundreds of thousands crossed the border to Bangladesh to escape intense government persecution. In both instances, many were subsequently repatriated.

In the past few years, persecution has again intensified. There was significant violence in 2012, followed by the creation of structures of repression, and a significant outbreak of violence again in Autumn 2016. In December 2016, we noted that: “With [part of Rakhine State] sealed off to observers, local sources reported that government forces committed serious human rights abuses, including torture, rape, extrajudicial executions, and widespread destruction of buildings, including mosques. Human Rights Watch has documented the burning of over a thousand structures; many aid workers (the main providers of health care) are not being allowed into the area, and with the exception of one World Food Programme delivery, humanitarian aid has been blocked; as a result, the UN says that 160,000 vulnerable people have been cut off from health care, school feedings and maternal care. And the allegations of torture, rape and murder are harrowing.” A UN report into the 2016 violence stated “that the widespread violations against the Rohingya population indicate the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.”

This summer the Rohingya Muslims’ situation burst onto the global consciousness, after the government responded to a rebel attack on a military camp and police outposts by waging a brutal campaign against the civilian population that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has said “seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Reporters who have visited the area paint a picture of villages destroyed and terrified civilians forced to hide in the forest and eat leaves to survive. Amnesty International has accused the government of a ‘scorched earth campaign’, and Human Rights Watch has documented ‘widespread and systematic’ crimes against humanity throughout Rakhine State, including the “near-total destruction of 284 villages” and particular atrocities such as the massacre at Maung Nu village and another at Tula Toli village.

As a result of the burnings, violence and sexual violence, over half a million Rohingya have fled to the neighbouring country of Bangladesh, where they are living in hastily-constructed camps (map, video). Humanitarian agencies such as Doctors Without Borders (MSF), treating those in the camps, are concerned about their current conditions as well as the harm people have suffered before and during their flight. MSF emergency medical coordinator Kate White noted: “Right now, there are hundreds of thousands of people crammed along a narrow peninsula trying to find what shelter they can. It’s essentially a massive rural slum—and one of the worst slums imaginable … This has all the makings of a public health emergency.” The UN has also expressed concern about plans to accommodate the large numbers by building one giant refugee camp, noting that high concentrations of vulnerable people can lead to high risks of disease, and that the area chosen is not suitable.

The civilian government of Myanmar has refused to take responsibility for violence against civilians in Rakhine State; it is blaming the burning of Rohingya villages on local militants, despite the consistent testimony of survivors that the military is responsible and the fact that the actions follow a longstanding pattern of state-sponsored and state-sanctioned violence. The government has also claimed that its ‘armed clashes and clearance operations’ in the state ended in early September, which is manifestly not the case.

The UN and many Western governments have condemned the military’s actions and the failure of the civilian government to restrain them. The UK has suspended its training assistance to the Myanmar military, and the US Ambassador to the UN has called for a general arms embargo, while both Democratic and Republican senators have called for US sanctions against those responsible for the abuses. Coordinated international action is unlikely, however, as China, India and Russia have been less willing to put pressure on the government. China states that the government is facing complex ‘difficulties and challenges’ and requires patience and support to resolve the crisis; India expresses concern about extremism; and Russia, while calling for the situation to be resolved by political dialogue, repeats the government’s claim that it is the rebels who are burning villages. The different stances reflect both different approaches to intervention and the desire for influence within Myanmar and more broadly in the region. ASEAN, the regional alliance, has also been unable to agree on a response; an anodyne recent statement from the group’s chair, which did not refer to the Rohingya by name, was rejected by Malaysia, which, together with the other Muslim majority ASEAN countries, has expressed growing concern about the Rohingya’s plight. While there are calls from within ASEAN more generally for the group to put pressure on the Myanmar government, nothing public has yet been forthcoming.

Concerns are growing not only about the humanitarian disaster but also the implications for the region more broadly. The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, the rebel group responsible for the August attacks, says that it is wholly indigenous and that its demand is for the Rohingya to “be recognised as a ‘native indigenous’ ethnic group and … allowed ‘to return home safely with dignity … to freely determine their political status and pursue their economic, social and cultural development’.” The Myanmar government alleges that the group is allied with wider Islamist movements. What many in – and outside – the region fear is that the Myanmar government’s violence will create a self-fulfilling prophecy, in which jihadist groups take on the cause of the Rohingya and recruit among its peoples, destabilising the region.

What are people involved suggesting as a way forward? In the immediate instance, aid agencies are pressing for greater access to Rakhine State, so that they can bring in humanitarian aid, and for increased funding to help those who have fled to Bangladesh. In the UK, DfID has helped to airlift in aid and committed £35.9 million in funding to relief. Some feel continued pressure on the military may also be helpful. In terms of long-term solutions, many feel it would be helpful to press Myanmar’s government to implement the recommendations of the Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State. Bangladesh is insisting on full implementation, and India and the EU advocated for this last week, as well as for Myanmar to work with Bangladesh to enable repatriation of those who have fled. The Myanmar civilian government has said that it is committed to implementing the recommendations “in the shortest time frame possible, in line with the situation on the ground.” It needs to be held to this commitment.

Implementation of the Advisory Commission’s recommendations could indeed be a positive step. Among other things, they include guaranteeing the rights of all verified citizens (including the small number of Rohingya Muslims who enjoy that status); creating a verification process for citizenship that is safe and efficient; clarifying residency rights for those who do not qualify for citizenship; providing a route to citizenship for permanent residence; and “re-examining the current linkage between citizenship and ethnicity.” The recommendations also call for freedom of movement for all people in Rakhine State, the closure of camps for internally displaced people and the resettlement of those people either to their place of origin or to a place of their own choosing. They call for humanitarian and media access to Rakhine State, better provision of essential services (eg health and education) for all, greater transparency in the judiciary system, more training and accountability for security forces, and the fostering of civil society and inter-communal dialogue to tackle the very serious prejudices that exist.

Please pray:

  • for the safety and well-being of the Rohingya remaining in Myanmar, those in refugee camps in Bangladesh, and those who have fled via other routes. Pray that God will give people healing of body, mind and soul.
  • in thanksgiving for the work of individuals and agencies who, moved by compassion and a sense of justice, are seeking to meet the Rohingya’s needs
  • that individuals, countries and businesses will be generous in responding to the Rohingya’s situation by offering humanitarian aid. Pray also for effective distribution of that aid.
  • for wisdom for Bangladeshi leaders, as they seek to respond to the incoming refugees
  • for an end to the ill-treatment of minority ethnic and religious groups in Burma, and for a just society in which all are treated with dignity and all people’s rights are respected.
  • for all who are working within Myanmar to establish a culture of peace and justice

Christian Aid also has a prayer in response to the Rohingya’s crisis.

Action Point:

Please donate to the Christian Aid, CAFOD, Tearfund appeals for the Rohingya, to other members of the Disasters Emergency Committee,  or to MSF.

Short Notes: Prisons Week, Kenya, Keep on …

Prisons Week
This coming week (8 to 14 October) is Prisons Week. The Scripture verse for the week this year is “‘Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” and the focus is on hope for all connected with the criminal justice system: prisoners, victims, families, communities, prison workers, and all working in the criminal justice system.

The Archbishop of Canterbury writes: “What better inspiration for all those connected to the criminal justice system, than Paul’s words? For the victims who struggle day by day to live with memories and scars, and hope for a better tomorrow; for the staff, who patiently come alongside broken men and women, and walk with them the slow road towards change; for prisoners themselves, trying to make sense of their lives, fighting against the scars and choices of the past and fear of the future; and for the families and friends of those in prison, faithfully visiting and supporting. Paul encourages all not to give up hope,
but keep their eyes on the goal, keep going. Yet this isn’t about making efforts and working harder. It is about recognising that in Jesus, God has already ‘taken hold’ of us. That victims, prisoners, staff and families, are not walking this road alone, but God, who loves them, is ready to walk with them. In Prison Week, we stand in prayer with all who carry on in hope, that they would know they are loved by God and have the faith and courage to press on towards new life.”

Please join in using the Prisons Week resources to pray each day this week.

Kenya
When Kenya’s Supreme Court annulled presidential election results in August on the grounds that there had been irregularities and illegalities in the way the votes were  transmitted, commentators inside and outside the country applauded the way the country’s institutions had maintained their independence and the integrity of the electoral process. At the same time, people realised that the next stages could be complex.

The country is due to hold new presidential elections by the first of November – but the positions taken by the leaders of both the main parties are leading to concern for the success of the elections … and worries about the threat of violence. Pray:

  • in thanksgiving for the Supreme Court’s work to uphold electoral integrity
  • that God will guide those seeking to set up the new elections
  • that political leaders and their followers will act wisely and well, pledging to renounce hate speech and violence and seeking the common good
  • that churches will continue their leadership role in seeking peace
  • for the safety and well-being of all in Kenya

Keep on …

  • praying for all affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria … and now also those affected by Hurricane Nate, both in Central America and in the US. Pray for efficient, effective work to get vital emergency aid to those still unable to meet basic needs because of the storms’ impacts – and for all who are rebuilding and helping others to rebuild.
  • praying for the people of Yemen. The UN has estimated that almost 780,00 of its people have contracted cholera; moreover 17 million people there are currently facing food insecurity, with many of them close to famine.
    According to The Guardian, a draft version of the UN’s annual report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict has included the Saudi-led coalition, as well as Houthis, Yemen government forces, pro-government militia and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula on a blacklist of parties responsible for violations against children in 2016. The UN has also stated that it is setting up an independent investigation into human rights abuses in Yemen.Pray for:

    • God to give strength, courage and wisdom to all who are seeking to ensure Yemeni civilians have access to health care, food, water and shelter
    • donors to support appeals for humanitarian assistance to Yemen, both on the large scale and on the small scale
    • a just political resolution to the conflicts in the country
    • an “end [to] the sale or transfer of arms and related materials to any party to the conflict where there is a risk they may be used in violation of international humanitarian or international human rights law”
    • wisdom for the international community, and especially for the UN as it deals with the various parties to the conflict
    • strength, courage and wisdom for those attempting to hold people responsible for human rights abuses they have committed during the Yemen conflict

Supporting Refugees Locally, Short Notes: 25 June to 1 July 2017

In this week’s prayer email:

  • Supporting Refugees Locally
  • Short Notes:

    • Grenfell Tower
    • International Widows’ Day
    • Democratic Republic of Congo
    • South Sudan and Uganda
    • Thanksgivings

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” Matthew 10:29

This week’s Revised Common Lectionary reading from Genesis contains the story of Hagar and Ismael. Hagar’s human story – a slave given by her mistress as a slave-wife, rejected, and banished in a way that could put her and her child at risk of death in the wilderness – is a harrowing one of powerlessness, humiliation and loss. But in the eyes of God, she and her son are precious – and God both promises to protect them and does so.

Pray that all who have suffered injustice and been cast out may know the truth of God’s care for all God’s creation. And pray that we may be agents through whom God works to protect the vulnerable and rejected.
____________________________________________________________________________

Supporting Refugees Locally

“What can we do?”

This is the question we’re often asked with relation to support for refugees. Joanna Schüder, our Churches Refugee Networking Officer, is visiting with local groups that are supporting refugees – and is writing up some of their stories to show different approaches that individuals and groups can take.

The first of the stories – that of the Faringdon Syrian Refugee Group – is attached. We hope you find it interesting and inspiring.

Please pray for all who are already offering practical, prayer and emotional support to refugees. Pray that as a country we recognise the gifts that refugees have brought and continue to bring to our culture. And pray that as churches we work to offer support that witnesses to God’s love.

A Prayer for Refugee Week

Wondrous God,
Lord of all the earth,
Who can begin to comprehend your generosity!
You created humanity
In your image and likeness,
Gave us the abundance of creation
And when we had gone astray,
You sent your Son
That all who believe in Him should have eternal life.
Through Christ you have reconciled
All things on heaven and earth to yourself.
We come together now
From many different pasts.
Grant that in our dealings with each other,
We may recognise the image of God in each person,
Reflect your love,
And rejoice in the diversity of gifts you have given.
And make, we ask,
Our shared future on this earth that you have given us
One that honours you
And reflects your perfect Kingdom.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Short Notes

  • Grenfell TowerWe continue to pray for healing and justice in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. This week we pray additionally for all who have been evacuated from buildings that have the same cladding as Grenfell Tower; for the emergency services workers who continue to operate under deeply painful and stressful circumstances; and for wisdom for those charged with creating and monitoring fire safety regulations.If you are looking for written prayers for Grenfell Tower, you might wish to use the Moderators of the United Reformed Church’s General Assembly’s prayer, or perhaps  prayer points from people ministering in the area; the prayer from the London District Chairs of the Methodist Church (scroll down); or Bishop David Thomson’s prayer.
  • International Widows’ DayIn many countries and cultures, widowhood – especially among families that are already economically poor – can bring a loss of rights. As these stories show, this in turn can create vulnerability to ill-treatment and impoverishment both for widows and for their dependent families. While it’s hard to get accurate statistics for widows, UN Women estimates that there are 285 million widows worldwide of whom 115 million live in ‘deep poverty’.For this reason, the UN has designated 23 June as International Widows’ Day. You can read more about the day and the issues that widows face here.  You can read here about some widows fleeing conflict as refugees who are, with the help of others, making a life for themselves and their families. And you can read here the amazing story of how Afghan widows, despite opposition and under constant threat, have created their own safe zone, a ‘City of Women’.Please pray this weekend that widows will receive comfort and consolation when they are grieving, receive or retain the rights they need to protect themselves and their families, and have every opportunity for abundant life after loss. Pray especially for widows from conflict situations, who often face displacement and/or violence directed at them at the same time as they are dealing with the loss of their spouse.
  • Democratic Republic of Congo

    The Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) released this week a report on the brutal conflict between the country’s government and local militias in the DRC’s Kasai region. The report, which states that at least 3,383 people have been killed in the conflict, also speaks of mass graves, villages completely destroyed, hundreds of schools lost, and thousands of private dwellings destroyed. The UN also notes 600 cases of gender-based violence since August 2016.The conflict has displaced an estimated 1.3 million people, the majority of them internally, though some 30,000 have fled to Angola. There are also concerns that the regional conflict will  make it difficult to organise national elections, which are due to be held some time this year.On Friday, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted by consensus a resolution which “calls on the High Commissioner to appoint a team of international experts to investigate ‘alleged human rights violations and abuses, and violations of international humanitarian law in the Kasai regions.'”  The Congolese government agreed to cooperate with the investigation.  An update is to be presented in March 2018 with a final report to come in June.Please give thanks that an investigation has been mandated. Pray that civilians in the Kasai region will find safety, peace and security; that the governments and militias will cease crimes against civilians and turn towards peace; that the UN investigation will proceed peacefully, safely, and efficaciously; and that the DRC will be able to make preparations for genuinely free and fair elections.
  • South Sudan and UgandaIncreased humanitarian assistance in South Sudan means that this week the country was officially declared no longer to have any areas of famine. But the severity of food insecurity in some areas has increased, and the numbers of people who remain ‘food insecure’ are the highest ever. Please give thanks for the work of humanitarian agencies and programmes; pray that assistance will reach all who are hungry; and pray for peace and stability that will enable people to grow or to access the food that they need.A delegation from the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa, the ecumenical Council of Churches of South Sudan, and Ugandan church leaders visited South Sudanese refugees in Uganda last week. Members of the delegation were moved to tears by what they saw and heard – and also expressed their admiration for the Ugandan government’s work to accept and integrate refugees within their country.  In response to the refugees’ call to act for peace, CAPA is inviting members of the Council of Churches of South Sudan to Lusaka next month to formulate a new church-led peace plan.While Uganda has been welcoming, it is a relatively small country hosting over 1.2 million refugees, and it has struggled to ensure that those it is hosting have access to the support they need. The ‘Refugee Solidarity Summit’ held by the UN in Kampala this week was designed to raise greater international support for refugee work within the country. The conference had a target of $2 billion in pledges; the total raised came to $358 milion. The EU, Germany and the UK led the pledges, and the UN Secretary General, pointing out that conferences never raise their targets, expressed satisfaction with the result as a start. Pray that the pledged funds are delivered in timely fashion and used effectively – and that more funding is forthcoming.
  • Thanksgivings

    • That a US judge has temporarily halted the deportation of Iraqi immigrants, primarily Chaldean Christians, who lawyers have argued face genuine risks of persecution if returned to Iraq. Pray for wisdom for the judge and peace of mind for the Iraqi immigrants and their families.
    • That Sweden has committed legally to being carbon neutral by 2045. Pray this inspires others to deepen their commitments to act on climate.
    • For the many Refugee Week events in our area. Pray that they inspire more and more people to appreciate refugees’ gifts.

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