A message from Rev Dr Phil Wall
The Refugee Crisis: Our Response
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:14-17
In recent weeks, as the true suffering of the refugee crisis has been brought home in image and story, many within the church – both local and global – have asked what we can do to show God’s love to those in need. Some suggestions have asked for small yet significant action, others have called for a radical approach – such as the challenge given by the UK Methodist Church, Pope Francis and other Christian leaders, that each congregation or Christian community might host a refugee family.
After the evening service last Sunday (during which the lectionary reading included the passage above), we held a discussion about what we, at St David’s Uniting Church, could do in response to the crisis – as individuals, as a church, and in collaboration with other Christian responses. Following that discussion, and subsequent communication with the council, Citizens UK and various other charities, refugee support groups and Christian organizations, the following action points are recommended as possible ways in which we can respond in love:
Pray. Whatever else we might choose to do, we can all offer prayers for those who are suffering; for those trying to alleviate their suffering; and for those with the power to make decisions which might make a real difference to the current crisis. We can also spend time listening in prayer as we attempt to discern what else God might be calling us to do.
Donate. The Welsh Refugee Council (http://welshrefugeecouncil.org.uk/wales-cares-about-refugees/) has links to, and information about, the various charities and organisations which would appreciate our financial support as they try to make a positive impact in Wales and beyond. We have already made the decision that this year’s harvest collection will go to Christian Aid’s Syria Crisis Appeal.
Petition. We are invited to sign a petition which is calling for the UK Government to accept more asylum seekers and increase support for refugees in the UK.
March. On Sunday evening, those present agreed that I should represent St David’s Uniting Church on the ‘Refugees Welcome Here’ National Demonstration in London this Saturday, in the hope that adding our presence and voice to those who are fighting for a just and compassionate response to the crisis might show solidarity, witness that the church cares about this issue, and keep the pressure on the British Government to act in a more humane way. Closer to home, there is a #Refugeeswelcome march starting at the Aneurin Bevan statue in Queen Street, Cardiff, also on Saturday, beginning at 12 noon.
Lobby. The Welsh Refugee Council have invited people to Join City of Sanctuary and Oxfam Cymru to lobby our local Council by writing to tell councillors that we would welcome Syrian refugees in our area; to inform them that there is already a system in place to do this called the Syrian Vulnerable Person’s Relocation Scheme; and to encourage them to sign up to the UN Gateway Protection Programme.
Speak Up. In our homes and on our streets, we can speak up for the Christian…or simply human…obligation to show radical love for the women, men and children whose lives have been turned upside down through violence and conflict and who lack basic human necessities.
Listen. It is important for us to listen to the stories of those who have left homes and loved ones in order to avoid persecution and seek asylum in the UK. As part of our ‘Voices: An exploration of people, prejudice and protest’ month in October, we have already planned a time in which we will have the opportunity to do just this as we welcome the staff and beneficiaries of the charity Displaced People In Action to share tea (4:30 onwards) and worship (6pm) with us on Sunday October 4th. Do please think about coming along and/or volunteering to help us host the exhibition during the rest of the month. We also need to listen out for other opportunities to help. The donation of clothing and the offer of accommodation are actions whose outcome is currently contested by different bodies – which is not to say that we shouldn’t consider these actions but that we need to gather more information before we make any decisions. We need to listen to one another, to those with experience in these fields and to God, as we work out how we go forward together.
Some members have also asked if I can make the ‘Sodom and supper’ sermon preached during this year’s Refugee Week available which I have (somewhat arrogantly!) provided a link to here: https://www.stdavidsuniting.org.uk/sermon-for-refugee-week-phil-wall/
As followers of Christ, we have been called to care for the vulnerable, seek justice for the persecuted, welcome the stranger, offer hope to the despairing, love everyone. May God bless us as we continue to work out how most faithfully to do these things in our time and place.