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Map with words of welcome hung on it in different languages

(c) Marcia Chandra

From providing practical support and raising awareness to hosting arts and cultural activities, faith communities play a key role in Refugee Week every year.

Faith groups often represent a much-needed community for people who have recently arrived in the UK. Many also bring together a wide range of people through their congregations, and as such are important spaces for positive conversations about refugees.

For these reasons we chose ‘Refugee Week in your Faith Community’ as the theme of our April Monthly Meet, and invited leaders and members of different faiths to share their learning and ideas about standing with refugees, for Refugee Week and beyond.

Over 30 people attended the meeting including from Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups. There was a strong feeling that faith communities have an important role to play in both providing support for refugees and making policies and discourse more humane, and lots of practical ideas were shared about how this can be done.

We hope that the meeting encouraged and inspired groups to get involved in Refugee Week this year – whether again or for the first time – and as always, that Refugee Week will be the starting point for connections and collaborations that last all year round.

For more information about getting involved in Refugee Week, see the videos and write-ups from the Refugee Week Slow Conference, or contact us.

Our next Monthly meet, ‘Refugee Week at your School’, is on 06 May – see the Eventbrite page for details and to sign up.

Speakers

Richard Reddie, Director, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and Coordinator of Churches’ Refugee Network. Also part of Churches of Sanctuary

Churches’ Refugee Network encourages Churches in Britain and Ireland to proactively engage in issues linked to asylum, refugees and migration.

Historically churches have engaged in Refugee Week through Sanctuary Sunday, which aims to promote the Church of Sanctuary programme, building cultures of welcome, hospitality and safety in churches. For Refugee Week 2021, Sanctuary Sunday is on the last Sunday of Refugee Week, and the 2021 date is 20 June.

Now encouraging churches to engage throughout the whole of Refugee Week too.

Joanna Mwansa, Communications Officer, Welcome Churches

Welcome Churches’ vision is for every refugee in the UK to be welcomed by their local church.

275 churches are part of their welcome network (map). They provide welcome boxes for people when they arrive in their area, and/ or invite refugees to join their community activities.

Welcome Churches get involved in Refugee Week through Refugee Sunday – Welcome Churches creating resources for churches to use, including a film for churches to show.

This Refugee Week, Jubilee+ is planning to run five evening prayer meetings for churches on refugee and asylum issues from Monday to Friday, and Welcome Churches will lead on day one.

Welcome Churches also offer training such as trauma awareness training – available for free to their network.

Azim Kidwai, CEO of Mercy Mission UK

Mercy Mission is a Muslim organisation whose recent UK work has focused on supporting refugees seeking to resettle in the UK from camps in the Middle East as well as asylum-seeking communities in Bradford and London.

Mercy Mission UK is currently working on a tech product called ‘Creditify’ which is a credit union for refugees, especially those of Muslim heritage who struggle to access finance because of religious beliefs.

Creditify will be a ‘hand up rather than a handout’. It is just starting out and open for collaboration and engagement with partners.

Dr Edie Friedman, Executive Director of JCORE (Jewish Council for Racial Equality)

JCORE seeks to be a Jewish voice on race and asylum.

JCORE offers practical support including collecting and distributing food and toiletries to destitute asylum seekers, many through seven drop-in centres run by synagogues.

It also runs a befriending scheme for unaccompanied minors (JUMP) and a mentoring scheme for refugee doctors. Both these initiatives resonate with Jewish experience – of the Kindertransport, and Jewish doctors fleeing to Britain in 1930s and finding it difficult to requalify.

JCORE also campaigns, including on the right for asylum seekers to work if they’ve been in UK for six months and supporting the ‘Dubs’ Scheme’ supporting unaccompanied children.

Now turning attention to Home Secretary’s new proposals – we need to change both the proposals and the rhetoric around them. Really important that we build up a coalition of Jewish organisations and other faith communities to say this is not the sort of Britain we want to live in – instead we want to live in a country that is open welcoming, offering fairness and opportunity.

Resources and Links

If you know of resources from any faith community that we should add here, do let us know.

Churches’ Refugee Network (A project of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland)

Churches of Sanctuary (Supported by CTBI)

Welcome Churches

‘God With Us’: a new Christian worship resource on the theme of refugees, migration and sanctuary + other resources, Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees

Mercy Mission UK

How the Muslim Community Can Change the Lives of Refugees, article in Muslim Vibe by CEO of Mercy Mission Azim Kidwai

JCORE (Jewish Council for Racial Equality)

JRAN (Joint Refugee Action Network)