Prayer Email 12 January 2020: Unity, Farmers, Hope, India’s Citizenship Bill

Prayer for the Week

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins on Wednesday the 18th, so this week’s prayer has Christian unity as its theme. You can also find the UK materials for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity here, and the international materials here.

A further collection of prayers for unity is in this Twitter thread.

Lord Jesus Christ,
who prayed that all your followers might be one,
We ask your forgiveness for our divisions.
Unite us, we pray, in your love
And grant that, by your grace, we may come to serve you
As members of the one body,
Guided by your truth
And glorifying you together
Through the gifts you have given us.

 

Focus for Prayer – Farming

Our January prayer for farmers is on our website’s Prayer Space. Further resources are available from the Arthur Rank Centre.

As you pray for farmers this week, please pray especially for:

Those in Australia who have lost farms to the bushfires

All farmers whose livelihoods and lives are threatened by extreme weather, trade uncertainties, and conflict (UK, DRC, South Sudan, and others)

All farmers suffering from mental ill health as a result of the strains of farming. Give thanks for charities, such as FCN and RABI in the UK, that offer support for farmers under stress.

Items for prayer

Reasons for Hope

There are many reasons for concern as we look at the current climate situation – but where do we find hope?

I (Maranda) have recently revisited the brilliant collection of essays on Christian hope and the environment that Margot and Martin Hodson gathered for Anvil. The articles in that collection wrestle with key questions: how do we relate our ultimate hope – our trust in God’s good purposes for the creation – to our proximate hopes for the temporal future? How do we avoid ‘false hope’ which is based on an unwillingness to confront hard realities? How do we harness ‘optimistic hope’ which inspires people to keep working on tough issues? And what is ‘robust hope’? If you haven’t read the articles – or, indeed, even if you have – this is a volume to visit or revisit. The whole volume is freely available online.

Six climate researchers also started the year by sharing news that had given them hope in 2019. One spoke of country-level events, citing Costa Rica’s work to decarbonise its economy – an antidote to people who say that governments can’t or won’t undertake ambitious climate action.  Another cited advances in forecasting that that can make it possible to predict the behaviour of – and hence prepare for – extreme weather. Four cited political or economic movements or actions: the growth of divestment, local declarations of ‘climate emergency’ leading to local action, the rise of the youth climate movement, and the plans for decarbonisation in a recent party manifesto.

Over the next week, can you read some of the pieces on hope? Give thanks to God for the things that give you hope? And pray about how you can best act in order to give hope to others?

 

India’s Citizenship Act

Widespread protests have taken place for more than a month in India in response to the Indian government’s introduction of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act [CAA], which was signed into law on 12 December and took effect last Thursday, 10 January.

The new act offers a path to legal citizenship for migrants from the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian religious communities of Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan,  who entered India before the end of 2014.* According to its terms, they “shall not be treated as illegal immigrants.” The government has justified its selection of these groups on the grounds that they  “were compelled to seek shelter in India due to religious persecution or fear of religious persecution.” Critics point out, however, that the act does not offer such a path to Muslims from any country, including those, such as the  Ahmadiyyas or Hazara who have fled religious persecution in the countries named in the act.

The act’s passage represents the first time that the constitutionally secular democracy has made religion a criterion for citizenship, and there are fears that it will be used to marginalise or expel Muslims. It coincides with suggestions that the government might create a nationwide ‘National Register of Citizens’, requiring people to prove their right to citizenship. In the state of Assam, when such a register was implemented, around 1.9 million people were found to lack adequate documentation to show that they qualified and so were deemed stateless and under threat of deportation.  Under the provisions of the CAA, Muslims in this situation would continue to exist under this threat, while members of other groups could claim a right to remain.

This move reflects the BJP’s vision of India as a Hindu nation-state and its idea that  Muslims and Hindus should live in different states. BJP ministers have articulated at various pointsthat their objectives include prioritising Hindu and Sikh refugees and expelling what they call ‘infiltrators’, often seen as code for those perceived as illegal Muslim migrants.

For all – Hindus and others –  who favour a democracy that preserves religious freedom for all its minorities and heeds the constitutional principle that India is to be a “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic”, the moves are profoundly worrying. Politicians from other parties, students, secularists, and religious leaders from minority communities including the Christian churches have united in expressing their concern and opposition.

Fr Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit in India, said, during the debates around the bill:  “The CAB risks tearing the country apart, reopening unhealed wounds of the Partition and ultimately destroying the secular and democratic tenets of our revered Constitution….” adding with respect to the proposal of a national register, “The country today stands at the brink of catastrophic human suffering and injustice, if the government implements it nationwide as planned.”

Students have been particularly vehement in protestinginspiring many others in civil society – but have been attacked by government forces. The opposition Congress party has ordered its members who govern states not to implement the act, and the leader of another state governed by an opposition party  has also said the state will refuse to implement it. Opposition parties are due to meet this week to decide on a strategy.

Please pray:

  • for wisdom for politicians as they decide how to respond to the CAA and the protests against it
  • for wisdom for those who will be arguing and hearing legal challenges to the CAA in the coming month
  • that India will be a place that conforms to its founders’ vision of freedom and equality under the law for members of all religious groups
  • that India, and all countries, will offer refuge to all who come to it and qualify as refugees under international law
  • for wisdom for Christian leaders, as they consider their response to the act

*The Indian government estimates that of those who have claimed refuge so far on the basis of persecution and would benefit from the act,  81.2% are Hindus and 18.5% Sikhs.

 

Update on Aid

Thank you to all who have prayed and are praying about the Department for International Development (DfID)’s  future. In the past week, as Duncan Green outlines at the end of his piece on the issue, news first came through that suggested a merger that abolished DfID wouldn’t take place. Then almost immediately other news suggested that while a complete merger was unlikely, a restructuring that abolished DfID’s ministerial post and gave the Foreign Office de facto control of DfID’s structures was still possible. Such a plan would continue to raise concerns about the future independence and efficacy of the UK’s development work.  Please continue to pray, asking God to give all involved in the decision wisdom and a desire to do what will further the reduction of poverty and the increase of economic justice.

Short Notes …

Please continue to pray about the situation in Iran, the tensions between Iran and the US, and the tensions across the Middle East. If you would like more detailed prayer points, email us.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives in the United States, Nancy Pelosi, has indicated that she will send the articles of impeachment for President Trump to the Senate this week, despite profound disagreements with Senate leadership about how the trial should be conducted. The Senate leadership has indicated that it wants to put forward rules for the trial that will not involve a decision to call witnesses or to request documents that the President had refused to make available to the House. The Senate Majority Leader has also already suggested that there will be a speedy acquittal, and he has said that “Everything I do during this [trial], I’m coordinating with the White House counsel … There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this to the extent that we can.”

During a Senate impeachment trial, each Senator takes an oath to “do impartial justice, according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God.” Whatever the merits of the case, there is a clear danger to the integrity of the Constitution and to the credibility of political processes if there is not a sense that a fair trial is taking place and impartial justice is being done.

As US politicians take the next steps in the impeachment process, pray for wisdom and integrity for all concerned.

Resources

2020 Dates for Prayer and Action
A reminder that the first quarter dates for prayer and action are on our website here.  Many people find them handy for planning services, rotas, and special events – and they can be used to shape your own cycle of prayer, too.

Supporting Refugees: A Guide for Oxfordshire Churches
Churches in Oxfordshire will be receiving this week a new guide to supporting refugees in our area. The booklet has been compiled by CCOW with the assistance of a range of local partner organisations. It introduces the different charities that are standing alongside refugees in Oxfordshire and the opportunities they offer to help with their work. If you would like your own copy (wherever you live), please do get in touch.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity materials this year include a suggestion that Christians and churches “Provide welcome and hospitality for those recently arrived into the UK and Ireland” If this call inspires people in your church who aren’t yet involved to get involved, the guide can help them find out what they can do.

 

Forthcoming Dates and Events

13 January – Asylum Welcome Charity Gala – Oxford
Information and tickets.

19 January 2020 – Peace Sunday
Theme: Peace as a journey of hope’ Materials: Pax Christi

22 January 2020 – Talk by Sophi Tranchell, Oxford
The Oxford Fair Trade Coalition is hosting a talk by Sophi Tranchell, CEO of Divine Chocolate UK at its AGM. She’ll be speaking about her experiences in Fairtrade – well worth hearing. Wadham College, 6:30 – 8:30. Registration.

25 January 2020 – ‘Saying yes to life’ – Reading
Day retreat (9:30 for 10:00 until 2:30 pm) based on Ruth Valerio’s new Lent book. Free. Lunch provided. For further information and registration, email maranda.stjohnnicolle@oxford.anglican.org.

1 February 2020 – Green Christian ‘Way of Life’ Day – London
Day conference on ‘rediscovering and maintaining a radical, creation-centred way of being’. Presentations on prayer, ‘living gently’, public witness and encouragement. Sessions on poetry, prayer and music. Information and registration.

This Week’s Readings

Revised Common Lectionary Readings – Isaiah 42 1-9  •  Psalm 29  •  Acts 10: 34-43  • Matthew 3: 13- 17

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.”

Isaiah 42: 1-4

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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.

Luci Ashbourne, Asylum Welcome (www.asylum-welcome.org)

development@asylum-welcome.org 01865 722082

Refugee Resource (www.refugeeresource.org.uk) info@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:

  • All We Can (http://allwecan.org.uk/give/current-appeals/refugee-appeal/)

  • British Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org.uk/What-we-do/Emergency-response/Current-emergency-appeals/Europe-Refugee-Crisis-Appeal)

  • CAFOD (https://cafod.org.uk/Campaign/Refugee-action)

  • Oxfam (http://www.oxfam.org.uk/what-we-do/emergency-response/refugee-crisis)

  • Save the Children (https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/how-you-can-help/emergencies)

  • Tearfund (https://www.tearfund.org/en/give/)

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 provide information, advice and support to asylum seekers and refugees who come to the office (two half days a week). Training is provided. Asylum Welcome is also looking for people to join the fundraising and comms team. 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

Help with reception and administration at Refugee Resource

Refugee Resource needs more volunteers to help in the daytime with reception and administration (a few hours per week or as a more substantive role). Training provided.

Refugee Resource   FabiodiDonato@refugeeresource.org 01865 403280

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: www.ccow.org.uk/what-we-work-on/refugees-and-forced-migration/

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

Reset Communities and Refugees (www.resetuk.org) enquiries@resetuk.org 020 3582 9882

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)


This resource was prepared by Christian Concern for One World (CCOW) & updated in July 2019.

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.

Giving to support refugees in other countries

Most displaced people are living either in their own countries or as refugees in the countries nearest to them.  Uganda is currently hosting more than a million South Sudanese refugees; Lebanon over a million Syrians; Bangladesh almost three quarters of a million – over half a million of whom have arrived within a very few weeks.

It’s vital to get resources to places where there is most need. Here are some organisations to which you can contribute in order to help. The links go directly to pages listing their appeals or work with refugees.

 

Featured Image: ‘Getting Syria’s children back to school in Lebanon‘, Russell Watkins/Department for International Development, used under Creative Commons License

Helping Syrian Refugees

Introductory Resources

UK Government – Syria Refugees: What you can do to help

Introductory UK government information for people wanting to help Syrian refugees (Nov 2015). Covers a wide range of opportunities and contains links to other organisations

Refugees Welcome
National campaign by Citizens UK networking and giving advice, support and training for local groups welcoming refugees. Offers statistics, guidance in formulating a refugee welcome plan, campaigns materials, stories, access to training, links to local and national groups, etc. You might want to take a look at the Welcoming Syrian Refugees: An Introductory Guide booklet Citizens UK produced with the Rural Refugee Network and others.

Resources on Syrian Refugee Resettlement Programme and Community Sponsorship

Local Government Association
Guide (Spring 2016)  “for all those in local authorities who have a role in leading, planning, delivering and continually seeking to improve services for resettled Syrian refugees” Helpful information to give background on local authority options and to offer to local authorities new to the Syrian Refugee Resettlement Programme.

Reading Borough Council
Report (16.01.17) on Reading’s participation in the Syrian Vulnerable Person’s Resettlement (SVPR) Programme: useful as it gives details of the programme, including budgets, partners and their contributions, etc.

UK Government – Community Sponsorship Overview
Community Sponsorship Scheme for refugees in the UK, launched July 2016 – includes link to application form & guidance for full community sponsor and resettlement plan template

UK Government – Community Sponsorship Guidance
Government publication (July 2016) “Full Community Sponsorship – Guidance for prospective sponsors” for community groups wanting to apply to welcome & support resettled refugee families

Sponsor Refugees 
Citizens UK Foundation for Community Sponsorship of Refugees 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.

Caritas Social Action Network

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

 

Image: ‘Refugee milestone‘, Scottish Government, used under Creative Commons License