Reflections for Refugee Week

The Milton Keynes Rose - a collection of black and white pillars inscribed with messages marking key dates. In the foreground in a World Refugee Day pillar for 20 June which reads

Refugee Week is held each year in June to celebrate the contribution of people who have come to the UK as refugees and to encourage greater understanding. Associate Archdeacon of Berkshire, the Revd Canon Liz Jackson, heads up the diocese's Ukraine Refugee Co-ordinating Group alongside Social Justice Adviser, Hannah Ling, and continues to play a huge part in the welcome and support of people moving to Berkshire from Hong Kong and across the world.

The Revd Liz shares some reflections below for Refugee Week 2022.

First, some terms:

Refugee: someone who has been given the legal status of a refugee due to fear of persecution in their own country. In the UK a refugee is someone who the government has agreed meets this definition, and they are given five years to remain in the UK. During this time, they can work, learn and play a full part in UK society. After five years, they can apply to remain in the UK. 

Asylum seeker: someone who is seeking asylum (protection) in another country, having left their own country. They are an asylum seeker until their application has been concluded, at which point they will be granted refugee status and have five years to remain in the UK. Whilst a person is claiming asylum they cannot usually work. 64% of asylum claims were granted in 2021. On appeal half of those turned down in the first instance were granted. This means that over 80% of people claiming asylum were found to be genuine refugees.

Migrant: someone who moves from one country to another.

One of the terms that often gets used in a derogatory way is ‘economic migrant’. It is often used to diminish a person’s reasons for moving to a new country down to a purely financial motivation. This is rarely the case. Everyone who flees a dangerous situation has a consideration for what their next step is. They will want, firstly, to be safe, and then to have the opportunity to rebuild their lives. This will mean that they will have to think about how to feed their families, how to get work, and where the best opportunities to do that are. 

Safety in another land

Some people will be persuaded by links with family and friends that one country will be better for them than another. Language plays a big part in this too. It is hard to get a job and support your children if you can’t speak the language.

As Christians, we follow a God who in the form of Jesus became a refugee as an infant - who found safety in another land. We are people who adhere to a faith that consistently urges kindness and generosity to strangers and aliens. 

“Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.” Exodus 23:9

“The foreigners residing among you must be treated as native-born.  Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19.43

“Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers for by doing this some have shown hospitality to angels without knowing.”

Hebrews 13 1-2

We are urged to be a welcoming and hospitable and generous community, and the way we welcome those who come to our country seeking safety is a powerful witness to this. Churches in this diocese come alongside newly arrived people, supporting them in many ways – through food support, help with learning English, finding work, making friends and – through the Homes for Ukraine programme - finding a place for them in our own homes. This is good. This is vital.

Challenging the culture

But we live in a time and culture that can all too often feel hostile to the stranger. Language is used that dehumanises people – ‘economic migrant’, ‘asylum seeker’, ‘refugee’ all convey meaning, but have the effect of distracting us from the person they label.

Try using terms like ‘people who are claiming asylum’, ‘people who are seeking safety’, ‘people who are struggling to make life better for themselves and their families’. Restore the humanity to the person you are talking about. It makes it much more likely that we and others can relate to them, empathise with them and then reach out to them.

There is undoubtedly a need to challenge the pervading culture that spreads fear and malice towards fellow human beings who are not ‘us’. This is nothing new.

Jesus drew alongside those who the society of the time excluded: women, lepers, mentally ill people, strangers. We cannot use our political allegiance, or fear, or lack of understanding as an excuse to not do the same.

This refugee week find out more, offer to support, challenge and pray so that we all move towards a more loving and accepting society where the stranger is welcomed with open arms.

What next?

Find out more

Hear Liz speak on BBC Radio.

Read more about Refugee Week and find events near you.

Read stories of change from Asylum Welcome, an Oxford-based charity offering advice and practical support to asylum seekers in Oxfordshire.

Watch Bishop Alan on GB News speaking about the government's recent Rwanda policy and the importance of supporting those in need.

Read Bishop Steven's thoughts on the Rwanda flight policy.

Support

For a year, the Diocese of Oxford has been supporting newly arrived people from Hong Kong to learn English online. Many people arriving from Ukraine have now joined our lessons, along with others also seeking safety in this country. We desperately need people able to support this online learning. Please get in touch with the Revd Canon Liz Jackson and complete this form to register your support.

We have over 70 Ukrainian families still looking to move to the diocese - they need homes and wraparound support in settling into this new chapter of their lives. Sign up here to join our mailing list and keep an eye on your inbox for a short form to let us know what help you'd like to offer.

Pray

You may like to light a candle this week and pray for people who are claiming asylum. 

Worship resources from Christian Concern for One World

Prayers for refugees from the Church of England

Prayers for Refugee Week 2022 from All We Can, a Methodist international development and relief organisation.


Page last updated: 23rd June 2022 9:39 AM