Refugees: How can we help, is there a hope and a future?
I’m Becky Snaith and I’ve been coming to Aylesbury Vineyard since January this year. Firstly, I’d like to start with an encouragement before I talk about refugees. At Aylesbury Vineyard, me and my husband received a warm welcome and became involved in areas within the church almost straight away. There are many aspects of the church that I feel are being done really well. The worship is great, people are very friendly and there’s a strong sense of compassion and belonging. Often we hear talks saying we should be doing this, that or the other. Take heart that your already doing it! Going to church is really exciting because there is so much potential to do God’s work through this place and to enjoy it.
Anyway what’s the situation with refugees? I’ll start off with a few facts and figures so you all know what we are dealing with.
What is a refugee?
The definition of a refugee according to Google is:
‘a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.’ We’re talking about people fleeing the threat of or certain death.
- 5 million refugees worldwide in 2014
- 80% of refugees have been living in camps for more than 5 years, 50% for over 10 years
- 70% are Muslim
- Half are children
- The world’s biggest refugee camp is in Kenya with 330,000 people
So that’s the situation, and it looks pretty bleak, pretty hopeless and can leave us feeling overwhelmed when we get a sense of the scale of the problem.
God’s heart for the refugee and what is he saying about this?
“True justice must be given to foreigners living among you and to orphans … Always remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God redeemed you. That is why I have given you this command.” (Deuteronomy 24:17-18)
So God is clear when he says he wants justice for the refugee and that as he has shown redemption in our lives we can be part of his plan to help these people.
He is also clear about serving people in practical ways. Matthew 25: 35-40 shows Jesus telling us that whenever you offer someone in need of food, clothing, visiting, looking after or hospitality, we are offering it to him… “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
What can we do to help refugees?
Firstly, this is not for everyone. God gives all of us different passions, so all of the people can do all of the work. If your time is devoted to something else or even split between many different things, this may not be for you. There is no need to feel guilty about not getting involved in every different ministry going. Burnt out people are less effective than well rested people that look after themselves. Something I am learning myself over the last few months.
However, if this is something you are passionate about and have some time for here are a few things you can do:
- Pray – obviously something we can all be doing.
- Support Aylesbury Vineyard Refugee Compassion – We are taking food to refugees in Calais, and you can help by collecting donations or coming on a trip to help volunteer.
- Online advocacy – there are plenty of petitions to be signed urging governments to be compassionate, or you can email your local MP. Only recently our government back tracked on its decision not to let unaccompanied minors into the UK from around the EU.
- If you’re very keen, you could sign up to host a refugee in your spare room through Positive Action In Housing.
- This one is only for those who have seriously thought and prayed it through! you could offer to foster a refugee child through Home for Good.
Is there a hope and a future?
With the current refugee crisis in Europe, there is no end in sight any time soon. However many refugees around the world have gone on to achieve amazing things. My own Nan was a refugee and without her I would never have been born, so that’s a good start.
Many refugees sadly spend decades or even there whole lives in refugee camps. This needs to change. We can be part of this, attitudes need to change for anything to change. When we talk about immigration with our friend or colleagues. Particularly in relation to refugees we need to see it as a thrill not a threat. God is clear what he wants for people. We have the opportunity to get involved. There can be a hope and a future if we keep at it. Refugees need to be seen as people, friends, family and part of God’s plan. They are not a number, not a political bargaining tool or anything else.