Refugee Week takes place every year across the world in the week around World Refugee Day on June 20th.
Refugee Week events, resources and campaigns can be found at www.refugeeweek.org.uk
See also: Made for Goodness - a faithful response to the refugee crisis a report (July 2016) from the Joint Public Issues Team
There are worship resources including hymn suggestions at www.singingthefaithplus.org.uk
The material below is offered as an aid to those who choose to remember the plight of refugees and people seeking sanctuary at any time. Please feel free to use or adapt this material for worship or study groups.
Many Methodist churches have found themselves involved with supporting people seeking sanctuary and refugees. Sometime these churches have become involved almost unawares.
In Darwen, Lancashire, it is an ecumenical group of churches that are engaged with helping. The concern of one church member at the number of people seeking sanctuary hanging around the Post Office on benefit day, led to her speaking to her Methodist minister. That conversation led on to the establishment of a drop-in centre in one of the churches. At the United Reformed Church in the same partnership of churches, the distress of an Iranian mother and daughter alerted others to the problem. The family, who had been persecuted for their Christian faith whilst in Iran, had been given leave to remain in Britain. The father had, though, become stranded in Turkey whilst fleeing separately from Iran. The problem they faced, and the difficulties they experienced in getting help, led to the political involvement of the church. Eventually the family were reunited and given permission to remain in Britain.
Seeing the need, the churches got together and worked at obtaining grants to employ two workers. They were to support families and to run two drop in centres; one within the Darwen Churches' Partnership and another within the Blackburn Circuit. Both workers are sponsored by Churches Together in Blackburn with Darwen, and have the support of the Anglican Board of Social Responsibility. Methodist, Anglican and United Reformed Church members were already working together.
The following passage is from a recent report from on of the workers, John East :
Sanctuary and refugee issues bring emotive thoughts and feelings to the minds of most people. Media coverage especially by some national tabloids, fan the flames of fear and ignorance and some of middle England's Christians may never have met or experienced the richness of working with asylum seekers and refugees - victims of world injustices and regimes of terror and of volatile governments.
As Asylum Seeker Coordinator, I see some of the 4,000 Asylum Seekers dispersed to the North West, awaiting a result of an asylum appeal. In fact over 350 asylum seekers live in the town. From Iran, D.R. Congo, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and from both Christian and Islamic backgrounds, our visitors are made to feel welcome and safe within our Churches and community.
Some are successful and gain status to remain, others wait for the courts decision and are in limbo with their lives on hold. We estimate, that in this borough, up to 20 have been made destitute by the present legislation and add to an already unacceptable level of poverty and deprivation in the North West.
Over the last three years the churches have responded with emergency food, furniture, friendship and love for a group of needy people who are often traumatised and marginalised. Many people in the churches in the Darwen Partnership and the Blackburn Circuit have met the challenge head-on by advocating for changes in the treatment of these very lonely and vulnerable people living in our community.
Clearly, the issue of sanctuary and refugee status needs to be given serious thought and some explanation.
Asylum seekers are those seeking leave to remain - claming a violation of their human rights, for physical, political or religious persecution; those granted Refugee status are allowed to stay up to five years in relative safety in the UK or, in our case, Blackburn with Darwen.
Central United Reformed Church in Darwen has hosted one of the drop-in centres with support from the other Churches and has up to 20 asylum seekers and refugees worshipping on Sunday. Over the last three years it has accepted six into membership, had six baptisms, one interfaith wedding and one renewal of marriage vows.
The other drop in centre is at Wesley Hall in the centre of Blackburn and has the advantage of being opposite the College for further Education. It is ideally placed to contact many of the young asylum seekers and refugees who are studying to improve their chances of finding work in Britain.
Other Churches, such as St Paul's Methodist, have taken to heart the supporting and championing of individuals and families, making representations to the Home Office, contacting MP's and accompanying them to tribunal hearings.
A whole variety of church members from Blackburn with Darwen have caught this new vision and the wider church community supports this mission. The asylum and refugee community has brought new insights, new life, and a renewed mission to our churches lives. A dimension now accepted by most, is a sharing of traditions and culture that has enhanced worship and church life as we see the cutting edge of cultural diversity, social justice, integration and cohesion.
As one refugee member from Zimbabwe said, "Once I just existed, but now, through my new life and friends in Darwen, I can live my life to the full - with God's help and guidance."
Bible Study on the "Stranger"
Various words are used indiscriminately in different Bible translations which can make it difficult to unscramble the different categories used; and the differences between Old and New Testament, again, complicates the issue. In the New Testament the word stranger is not generally used in any specialised sense; however the Old Testament has three different categories which can be described as stranger, foreigner and sojourner
- Stranger (z‰r) this is the person who does not belong and it can carry the implication of usurping a position. In many references it is equated with Israel's enemies
- The foreigner (no k ri) - i.e. Solomon loved many foreign women - (1 Kings 9:1ff) Tends to relate to one who's stay is temporary though there is a religious implication in that many of them would have worshipped false gods. This led to the prohibition on intermarriage which became particularly marked after the exile.
- Sojourner (gûr and sometimes tô?‰ b ) The Israelites, for example, were sojourners in Egypt. This implies the need to live in a foreign country for a considerable period of time but a continuing interest in the homeland. This category give their loyalty to their new home but never quite belong.
The sojourner had many privileges.
The Israelites must not oppress the sojourner (Ex. 12. 21, 23. 9; Lv. 19. 33, 34). Indeed, they are to go further and love them (Dt. 10. 19). One reason given for the observance of the Sabbath is that the sojourner may be refreshed (Ex.23. 12). The gleanings of the vineyard and the harvest fields are to be left for them (Lv. 19. 10, 23. 22; Dt. 24. 19-21).
The sojourner is included in the provision made in the cities of refuge (Nu. 25. 15; Jos. 20. 9) and is ranked with the fatherless and widow as being defenceless. God is their defence and will judge their oppressors (Pss. 94. 6, 146. 9; Je. 7. 6, 22. 3; Ezk. 22. 7, 29; Zac. 7. 10; Mal. 3. 5).
As far as religious life is concerned the sojourner is bound by the law which forbids leaven during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Ex. 12. 19). They must abstain from work on the Sabbath and on the Day of Atonement (Ex. 20. 10; Lv. 16. 29). They share in the prohibitions on eating blood (Lv. 17. 10, 13), immorality (Lv. 18. 26), idolatry (Lv. 20. 2), and blasphemy (Lv. 24. 16). On the plus side however they may eat unclean meat (Dt. 14. 21), are not compelled to keep the Passover, but if he wishes to do so he may be circumcised (Ex. xii. 48).
He is indeed virtually on a level with the Israelite (Lv. 24. 22), and in Ezekiel's vision of the messianic age the sojourner is to share the inheritance of Israel and their children will be counted as if they were Israelites (Ezk. 47. 22, 23).
Questions for consideration
How do these different categories relate to the types of foreigners in Britain?
How do the Bible passages suggest we should treat foreigners?
How near is this to what actually happens?
Hymns from various sources
- Down the road run refugees (Singing the Faith Plus)
- Christ be our light
- Heaven shall not wait
- God of freedom God of justice
- A New Commandment
- Brother, sister, let me serve you
- I the Lord of sea and sky
- Once to every life and nation
- Help us to help each other, Lord
- When I needed a neighbour
- Will you come and follow me
Hymns and Psalms
- 315 God's Spirit is in my heart
- 411 Thy love O Go
- 412 We turn to you O God of every nation
- 450 Moses I know you're the man
- 455 Christ is the world's light
- 764 Christ from whom all blessings flow
- 770 Go forth and tell
- Genesis 21: 8-21 The three visitors
- Genesis 28:10-17 Jacob's dream at Bethel
- Exodus 23: 1-9 Laws of justice and mercy
- Ruth 1: 16-22 Ruth and Naomi leave Moab and travel to Bethlehem
- Psalm 137: Lament of the exiles who were taken to Babylon
- Lamentations 5: 1-15, 19-22
- Micah 4: 1-7 The mountain of the Lord
- Matthew 2: 13-15 The Holy Family become refugees
- Matthew 25: 31-46 The parable of the sheep and the goats
- Luke 1: 46-55 Magnificat
- Luke 10: 25-37 The parable of the Good Samaritan
On Another's Sorrow
Can I see another's woe
And not be in sorrow too.
Can I see another's grief
And not seek for kind relief.
Can I see a falling tear,
And not feel my sorrows share,
Can a father see his child,
Weep, nor be with sorrow filled.
Can a mother sit and hear,
An infant groan an infant fear-
No no never can it be.
Never never can it be.
And can he who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small,
Hear the small birds grief & care
Hear the woes that infants bear-
And not sit beside the nest
Pouring pity on their breast,
And not sit the cradle near
Weeping tear on infant's tear. . .
He doth give his joy to all.
He becomes an infant small.
He becomes a man of woe
He doth feel the sorrow too.
Think not, thou canst sigh a sigh,
And thy maker is not by.
Think not, thou canst weep a tear,
And thy maker is not near.
O! he gives to us his joy,
That our grief he may destroy
Till our grief is fled & gone
He doth sit by us and moan.
William Blake 1757-1827
Refugees by Thomas Moult
Now praised be God for all these unfamiliar faces
That I behold when I walk through our English streets.
This motley people exiled from far, ravaged places-
Not East and West alone, but South here also meets!
Ever to England's refuge have the dispossessed
Brought their vast wealth of mind: to-day a grander gift
Enriches our Garden Land already by Nature blest.
I see defeated, silent-dragging men (Ah, lift
Your heads, my ill-starred brothers, lose the old despair!)
Women I see, heavy with memories. . . I mark,
Hidden behind their eyes, a heartbreak past repair (Women, be your hearts eased: your children from a dark
Blacker than frightening night are safe). These too I see-
The children here, of their own lands bereft, and yet
Laughing again, new flowers in our proud garden, growing free.
Now praised be God that children, laughing, can forget.
In the pain, misfortune, oppression,
and death of the people,
God is silent.
God is silent on the cross,
in the crucified.
And this silence is God's word,
God speaks the language of love.
Jon Sobrino - from "Pain-Bearers" published by Methodist Division of Ministries 1996
A Selection of Prayers
You knew what it was to be a refugee
when your parents fled from Herod
You knew what it was to be homeless
with no where to lay your head
You knew what it was to be friendless
when those you loved betrayed you
You knew what it was to be utterly derelict
as you cried from the cross
What ever we suffer
You have been there first.
Forgive us for doubting you
And give us the strength to go on.
The Prayer of Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen
A Prayer for World Peace
Lord, we pray for the power to be gentle;
the strength to be forgiving;
the patience to be understanding;
and the endurance to accept the consequences of holding on to what we believe to be right.
May we put our trust in the power of good to overcome evil
and the power of love to overcome hatred.
We pray for the vision to see and the faith to believe
in a world emancipated from violence,
a new world where fear shall no longer lead us to commit injustice,
nor selfishness make them bring suffering to others.
Help us to devote our whole life and thought and energy to the task of making peace,
praying always for the inspiration and the power
to fulfil the destiny for which we all were created.
From the Week of Prayer for World Peace 1978
O Lord, whose birth was heralded with songs of peace
Hear us now as we pray for peace
And for those whose lives are destroyed by conflict.
We pray for the Middles East
Countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Palestine and Israel
Where people are daily injured and killed.
We remember there is Genocide in places like Sudan - Darfur and Chad, -
The political persecution of whole peoples in Zimbabwe
That in many places
neighbour is eliminating neighbour.
So often war is accompanied by shortages and people starve, are deprived of medication and education.
We pray for the peace keepers
So often doing a thankless job
We pray for politicians
Criticised by all sides
but doggedly working for justice,
We pray for aid workers
Risking so much to help the needy
Strengthen in their work
Do not let them become disheartened
Work through them to bring peace that lasts. Amen
When we see the troubles on our TV screens
We cannot be surprised that people flee.
Help us to welcome the stranger
To provide for the needy
To counsel the abused.
Make our country a place of refuge and hope
For the love of Jesus. Amen
Wondrous and holy God, creator of the universe, you make all people in your own image, you live and work in our midst. You bless us with an immense variety of cultures and ways of responding to you. You show us new patterns of living and loving in Jesus. You give us strength by your Holy Spirit.
We bless and thank you
Forgive all among us who put boundaries around your presence, love and work; who use diversity to divide people - to demonise some and accord privileged status to others; who seek to dominate or destroy those who are different.
Have mercy on us all.
Show us all how to live and work with others; to receive diversity as a gift and not a threat; to move beyond tolerance of those who are different to mutual respect and trust. Show us the art of listening with respect to one another. Grant us the help of your Spirit that in humility we may share with others our faith and story.
In the name of Christ. Amen
When using the above prayer in public worship, take time and light a candle at the end of each stanza, and/or use the three stanzas at different points in the service.
'Unlocking the Doors' Inderjit Bhogal
Internally displaced person - Someone who has been uprooted from their home due to violence, poverty or disaster but who remains within their national boundaries
Migrant - someone who has moved from their country of ordinary residence to another country
Asylum seeker - someone who whilst in a country other than that in which they are resident applies for asylum
Refugee - someone who has emigrated from their country of ordinary residence because they have a well founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion and has been granted asylum
Refugee Action www.refugee-action.org.uk
Amnesty International www.amnesty.org
Association of Visitors to Immigration detainees www.aviddetention.org.uk
Asylum Aid www.asylumaid.org.uk
Churches Commission for Racial Justice www.ccrj.org.uk
Home Office www.homeoffice.gov.uk
House of Commons Joint Committee on Human Rights: Fourteenth Report
Human Rights Watch www.hrw.org
Immigration Advisory Service www.iasuk.org
Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture www.torturecare.org.uk
Refugee Council www.refugeecouncil.org.uk
United Nations High Commission for Refugees www.unhcr.ch
The Methodist Church is not responsible for the content of external sites. Links are provided for research and information and do not imply our approval.
Material collated by the Rev Terence Young, Superintendent Methodist Minister in the Darwen Churches Partnership.