The refugee crisis is sad but what can I do?

2018-12-14T23:38:20+01:00

Pictures of distressed children and desperate adults and terrible conditions in camps upset us. Statistics overwhelm us. It can be hard not to look away because we simply don’t know what to do or it just seems frightening.

Can an ordinary individual make a difference?

We believe that the answer is yes. Here are some ideas. Our contexts and opportunities vary but focus on what you can do and don’t worry about the rest.

Pray. Pray for hope, protection, provision, fairness, compassion. Pray for those who are afraid. Pray against xenophobia or abuse and those who would seek to exploit people’s misery for profit. Pray for those who care for refugees and are worn down. You probably cannot go to the worst places and help but you can support and encourage those who do work there.

Find out more. There is a lot of fear. There is a lot of misinformation. So make a decision to find out reliable information and share it in your conversations and on social media. Be an advocate for truth. Reassure. Ask questions to help friends consider what is right. Challenge falsehood. If politics is your thing, look at our advocacy materials and get ready to speak up. Pray for the politics of the situation.

Are there refugees or asylum seekers living near you? Can you befriend them? Can you volunteer with a local NGO or persuade your church to get involved? If not, be sensible and don’t act alone but you and a friend can still say hello to refugees (of your gender).

What simple things will make a difference?  Helping someone understand the bus timetable or how to find what they want in the supermarket or how to fill in a form. Encouraging them in their language learning. Enjoying the local park / museum together. Accompanying a mum and child to a parent and toddler club. Playing sport or games together.  Cooking for one another and sharing meals.

Look at the other FAQs and resources on this website and you will gain many ideas.  These include getting to understand Islam.

If getting to know refugees personally is not an option, can you contact a ministry working with refugees (at home or abroad) and ask how you can pray or collect items needed? Can you raise money? Could you get sponsored e.g. for camping under a plastic sheet? OR invite friends to pay to come to a Middle Eastern meal?

But of course, there are other needs. There are many other people in need of support all around us. It is right that Christians respond to the refugee crisis. Let’s keep working to bless other vulnerable people who are struggling with material or relational poverty or other needs. If this is your focus, that’s fine.

The scale of the refugee crisis is indeed overwhelming but that does not mean we are powerless. As Christians, we are all invited to offer our few loaves of bread and fish to Jesus and see what He can do with them. So let’s be encouraged by what we can do with His help, and pray and leave to God the things that are beyond us.

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Government and or church responsibility: What is the difference between the government’s responsibility in this refugee crisis, and our responsibility as churches?

2016-11-28T12:37:59+01:00

The biblical role of government can be summed up as ensuring peace, justice and a society where the vulnerable are protected and can flourish. Of course, that does not give us all the details, especially on how the vulnerable might be helped. That’s where politics and also circumstances influence the situation. People will also argue over what is the responsibility of local or national government or indeed the European Union or United Nations.

Christians have responsibilities too, with complementary but different roles between the local church and Christian aid/development agencies (who are committed to industry best quality standards such as the Red Cross Code of Conduct and SPHERE standards). We should all pray for our politicians, urge them to do the right thing and to speak up for justice and righteousness if they do wrong. We should pray for our neighbours who are afraid and for the refugees themselves. But we have other God-given tasks too.  This FAQ looks at the role of the local church.

Churches are called to love the vulnerable and minister to their needs in a holistic way. This includes caring for physical, emotional and spiritual needs regardless of someone’s faith or any other criteria.  It is perfectly appropriate for church members to discuss faith where opportunity naturally arises, provided it is done sensitively and respectfully and the refugee does not feel compelled in any way.  While Europeans tend to be reluctant to talk about faith, in Middle Eastern culture it is very normal to talk about religion.  Many refugees expect and welcome the opportunity to talk about spiritual matters.  The Church has a specific biblical mandate to share the good news that all can enter into relationship with God through Jesus Christ, whatever their religious background.  This should of course always be done in a way that never exploits tragedy or vulnerability for proselytism purposes.  We should minister to all the refugees’ needs.

Politicians need to bring order out of chaos, to ensure fair, safe and compassionate systems to assess all the refugees’ needs as well as their backgrounds. Politicians and public administration will decide who is allowed to transit through a territory or to stay temporarily or permanently. There are international laws to guide these decisions. It is not acceptable for refugees to be treated in inhumane ways, for unaccompanied children or the sick to be ignored or for all refugees to be seen as a threat.

It is not that simple. When the numbers of refugees are overwhelming and resources are totally inadequate, how are the authorities supposed to cope? But there is a huge difference between doing one’s best to assist and only seeing the crowds as a problem to be gotten rid of as quickly as possible. Is this not just a political issue but a humanitarian crisis overwhelming our capacity, or more simply, purely a political problem to be dealt with as firmly as possible or ignored completely?

In the emergency phase, churches help to feed, clothe and simply show compassion to the refugees. We should also speak up where necessary to challenge unfair or inadequate treatment of the new arrivals.  Once it becomes clear where refugees are likely to settle, our role can change. The State will do their best to offer basic housing, education, medical care and job opportunities.  In many places, especially less prosperous regions, these are things which churches can do in the name of Christ—and many other things too. For example, can Christians offer accommodation or language classes / support? Can we offer to help refugees understand forms or how the medical system works, find their way around the supermarket or understand the basics of the culture? Do we have counsellors who can help them process some of the trauma they have been through? Can we be their friends and commit for the long term, sharing lives together? Can we offer hope? If they need it, can we offer legal advice regarding their asylum application? And we need to continue to pray.

The Church can also help wider society as it reacts to the arrival of refugees. Some are fearful, others are resentful. We have a pastoral role, listening, providing opportunities for people to express their concerns and seek answers, being hope bringers and peace makers. And we have a prophetic role to speak out whenever hatred is fostered.

The government will organise and provide, and Christians can encourage them to do these tasks well. The Church’s job is to love unconditionally and serve on behalf of Christ whom we love and serve, with our head, hearts and hands.

 

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Is it appropriate to share the Gospel with refugees coming to Europe? Would that be exploiting vulnerability?

2016-11-28T12:44:46+01:00

Is it appropriate to share the Gospel with refugees coming to Europe?

The Refugee Campaign’s partners are resourcing Europe’s churches to reach out to refugees. Europe’s Evangelicals are offering hope. For the Church – that is, all genuine Christians –, this hope includes the eternal dimension. Sensitive sharing of faith is absolutely appropriate.

In Europe, especially more aggressively-secular Western Europe, many object to churches’ alleged lack of neutrality, equal treatment of others, or legitimacy in serving others when they have a religious motivation. Religion is supposedly a bad motivation and may lead to exploitation. (See below).

Actually, the Refugee Campaign sees faith in Jesus as an excellent motivation for providing help to the vulnerable. We believe that churches should do what they can, despite their limited resources. And as a general rule help should be given regardless of age, gender, religion or any other criteria. Practical support should be given unconditionally and never simply as a platform to proselytise. No one should exploit the vulnerability or tragedy of others.

Churches are called to love the vulnerable and minister to their needs in a holistic way. This includes caring for physical, emotional and spiritual needs. The Church has a specific biblical mandate to share the good news that all can enter into a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ, whatever their religious background. It is perfectly fitting for Christians to discuss faith where opportunity arises, provided this is sensitive and respectful and the refugee does not feel coerced or manipulated in any way. The Refugee Campaign is promoting resources which will help Christians to share their faith appropriately.

 

Would sharing faith be exploiting vulnerability?

Especially in Western Europe, which is more influenced by more aggressive forms of secularism, objections abound due to the prejudice that churches are not necessarily ‘neutral,’ that they are discriminatory, exploiting of others, that they should not be as involved or if they are, they should not ‘proselytise.’

“Our Christian missions’ history has occasionally included crusades, religious wars, forced conversions, inquisitions, and inappropriate connections between missions and colonisation. Of course we have long rejected such practices, but not everyone knows that,” said Thomas K. Johnson commenting on the 2011 remarkable joint statement by the World Evangelical Alliance, World Council of Churches and Pontifical Council for Interfaith Dialogue, Christian Witness in an Multifaith World.)

Although it is unnecessary and impossible to confess and ask forgiveness for these sins committed by others, we should acknowledge these facts of Christian history explicitly as much as our rejection of these past errors. This is especially important because not doing so helps breed prejudice and rumour about continued bad intentions and abuses among churches and Christians.

However, most of these present day accusations are unverified or simply not valid. In their work to serve the needy and vulnerable, including refugees, Christians will choose to operate in various ways, from local and informal initiatives to involvement with the authorities and non-religious organisations to church action to work with Christian aid and development organisations.

Christian aid and development agencies complement the work of the local church. They are motivated by their faith, and in disaster situations respect and sign up to best quality standards of their branch, such as the Red Cross Code of Conduct, and SPHERE standards. This means they will not withhold aid to anyone in need, regardless of age, gender, or religion. They respect and often work with local churches, but see their mandate as different and complementary.

Like Christian development organisations, the Refugee Campaign’s partners believe firmly in and therefore subscribe to universally recognised standards of Human Rights, especially respect for religious freedom. These standards imply that, in general, we should “impose no religious obligations on beneficiaries” of aid and ministry and that in all cases, “the use of any form of coercion or manipulation is excluded.” (See the excellent Code of Conduct for Christian Development Organisations drafted by a platform within the Swiss Evangelical Alliance.) Likewise, any abuse of authority, especially when it comes to religion or belief, must not be permitted: people who benefit from services are often vulnerable, yet are to be put on an equal footing and treated on that basis. That may mean that certain aspect of the ministry are made accessible only to believers.

 

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Is it OK to talk about Jesus to Muslims? Would that offend them?

2018-12-14T23:46:09+01:00

In Middle Eastern culture it is very normal to talk about religion. Many refugees expect and welcome the opportunity to talk about spiritual matters.   Secular Europeans should not imagine that refugees share their cultural squeamishness about religious discussion.

Refugees should have their religious freedom protected. This means enabling them to practice their Muslim / Christian / Yazidi / other faith or not to practice any. This also means ensuring they have the chance if they wish to explore other faith perspectives and to change faith if they choose. Wherever they are, Christians should indeed remain “free to talk about their faith, in accordance with their own religious freedom. They do this carefully, with sensitivity and respect for others.” See the “Engaging with Muslims” resource page and the excellent Swiss Code of Conduct

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My church is small, we can’t do much. But what could we do to help?

2016-11-28T12:42:28+01:00

Remember the boy with the bread and fish and what Jesus could do when the boy made them available.  So prayerfully consider some of these options.

Make prayer your focus.

  • Pray for all who are trying to help refugees and find solutions in an impossible situation.
  • Pray for the refugees themselves, for safety, for hope, for just decisions about their futures and for successful integration.
  • Pray for your nation. Pray for those who are afraid. Pray against any effort to stir up fear and even hatred and violence. Pray for good patriotism to win out over any toxic kind of nationalism. Pray that the people of your nation will dare to welcome and to help newcomers fit in. Pray for the authorities, that they will manage complicated situations wisely and with compassion.
  • And pray that the Lord would use this time of turmoil for His good purposes to bring life and hope to many.

Find out what is happening in your town.  Can you offer to support what the authorities, other churches or charities are doing?

Consider the bread and fish within your church community.  Could your children / youth / old people’s ministry be adapted so that refugees could join in?  What are the things that would come naturally to individuals?  Teaching a refugee your language? Helping them navigate themselves around the supermarket?  Providing haircuts or transport to a hospital appointment? Inviting a family for a meal?  Inviting refugees to come to your home or church and cook a meal for you?  Just being a friend?

Once you know what you have to offer, prayerfully approach the authorities / refugee centre and let them know.  Or look for natural opportunities to get to know refugees.

And, if you know people who are afraid, worried about change, frustrated because they face their own challenges and don’t think anyone cares, take time to listen.  Don’t judge or push your views on to those with genuine concerns.  Potentially provide opportunities to express and explore fears and frustrations appropriately, and seek answers together.

Look on the resources pages on this site to help you.

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How can our church decide what to do?

2018-12-14T23:51:44+01:00
  1. First things first

Look at the resources on these pages. Ask God to shape your thinking and heart towards the refugees.  Fear and other concerns should not be ignored but can be alleviated through prayerful and informed discussion, training, literature and testimonies of how God is at work among the refugee community.

  1. Research/discover what is already happening in the area. 
  • Don’t re-invent the wheel…. Ask the local Evangelical Alliance or other churches for information on who is doing what, where, with whom.
  • Ask aid organizations, or agencies like OM or YWAM what they are doing.
  • Find out what the authorities are doing.
  1. Go and look. Go with those who already have access to where the refugees are, and who are already doing something to see/experience what they are doing, and be on the lookout for 3 things:
  • What are the needs?
  • Where do you see your church contributing to what is already happening?
  • Is there something that is missing, a niche your church could fill?

 

  1. Assess the gifts and abilities of those in your church that desire to be a part of this ministry, and match these gifts to the needs/ministries you noticed in the point above. If church members cook, play football, can cut hair, have a car and could offer lifts, run a children’s club, are lawyers, could give basic language lessons, enjoy showing people around… all these things give a hint at where you might want to start.

 

  1. Try to learn a few greetings and words in Arabic or Farsi or other languages, perhaps from a refugee friend.

 

  1. Begin going, serving, building trust, and building relationships… Just join in with what is already happening but with eyes wide open to other needs needing to be filled, and to God’s guidance in the process. Then recruit church members who can meet those needs.

 

Here are needs refugees often have: 

Legal/advocacy needs

  • Registration, staying permits, citizenship
  • Family law, rights of families, benefits, legal representation
  • Knowing/understanding laws of host country (This comes up all the time!)

Medicinal needs: Many are tired and sick, even traumatized (needing counsel)

Educational needs: Integration isn’t possible without education

If we want them to participate in society and join the workforce, refugees will need education

  • Local Language
  • Customs/mores
  • Tips on host country customs & culture (many have used this as a means of introducing the Bible, saying: “just as the Koran has great influence on the thinking and customs/culture of your country, the Bible has greatly impacted out culture/customs….the Bible will help in your understanding of this your host country.
  • Kindergartens: get their children in kindergartens or involved in children’s / youth clubs to learn local language + customs/mores, then pass on to parents
  • Learn about the public institutions
  • Have the opportunity to convert their professional qualification into one that will be accepted in the new country. Or learn a new trade.
  1. Social needs: Community Building…Help fit into society. There is so much churches can do to befriend and to provide interaction opportunities with locals for families together or for women, men, children, young people and the elderly.
  2. Spiritual needs:
  • Culturally relevant forms of evangelism and discipleship
  • Small group “planting”/Church planting
  • Training of pastors/leaders among those that stay in country
  • Training of those that return home as disciples of Jesus to return as disciples sent by him …with sustainable subsistence strategies

Perhaps these tasks can be carried out as a movement of several churches (e.g. in a local Evangelical Alliance) and/or in partnership with specialists, Christian ministries and other organisations.

 

  1. Have a few tools in your pocket when the inevitable question comes: “why are you doing this, why are you helping as you are?” Know what to say and know that it is clear and simple. Have sensitive literature, ideally in the refugees’ language. You may wish to get training, eg from Sharing Lives

 

  1. Reflect, process, pray and plan as you go, serve, build trust and relationships.

 

  1. Pray! Pray for the refugees themselves to find hope. Pray also for their successful integration into society and that the host population will welcome them. Pray for protection against all who would want to stir up division, hatred and even violence.

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How to get funding for your refugee work?

2016-12-09T18:13:22+01:00

You have a great project and you are expecting a great work among refugees. Your job now is to convince people who don’t know you to believe that your work will be great. So answer these questions.

  • Who are you? What have you been doing with refugees? What has the impact been?
  • What do you plan to do and that needs funding?
  • Why do you believe that these plans are the best thing to do? Who will you benefit and how?
  • How much money do you need? Include a simple budget.
  • What are you doing to raise this money?
  • Provide contact info in case people want to know more.  Provide bank account details.

Get a friend who does not work for your project to read your text and comment on how clear, interesting and convincing it is and then make any changes that you both agree on.

Now who can help you?

Funding is never easy to find but these are people who may have ideas of funding sources.

  • The Refugee Campaign country point person for your country. See http://www.eearefugees.org/who-can-help-you/
  • Your national Evangelical Alliance
  • Your denomination or mission agency
  • Partner agencies working on refugees in your nation.

What are good fundraising options?

  • Mailings (paper and digital) to a specific group of people who could be interested.
  • Contact to Christian and other philanthropic foundations to present your project.
  • Contact Christian businesses to present your project.
  • Present the project on a crowdfunding platform like (http://www.crowdfunding.de/plattformen/  (Try to fundraise a part of your costs or tell the people that you will start working when all is funded.)
  • Events in churches, neighbourhoods etc. to present your project and to collect money. Be as creative as you can be. Never make people feel pressurised to give.
  • Invite friends and family to a dinner or other event with the clear purpose of raising funds for your project.

Members of the Refugee Campaign community may well be interested in your project. So try uploading your funding document with a word of intro to https://www.facebook.com/TheRefugeeCampaign/

EEA staff cannot help you with fundraising matters. So please use the channels suggested in this FAQ rather than connecting with them.

We are already helping but we are exhausted! OR We want to help but what happens in a few months when we are exhausted?

2018-12-15T00:57:24+01:00

Helping others can be a costly business. As Christians we are called to “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 19:19). We tend to interpret that as sacrificing our own needs to those of others. We ignore the second half of that sentence “as yourself” because the word ‘love’ is assumed. The assumption built in is that we love ourselves. When you take a plane journey, the stewards demonstrate the safety code which includes the following: “In the event of a loss of oxygen, oxygen masks will drop down. The passenger should always fit his or her own mask before helping others requiring assistance”. The principle is good – to take care of others you have to take care of yourself.

Self-Care

What does the Bible have to say about Self-Care?

  • Jesus’ example. On more than one occasion, Jesus withdrew to a quiet place after ministering to many people. He knew he needed to recharge his batteries, spiritually, physically and emotionally (Mark 6:1; 9:30; John 6:18)
  • God’s ministry. The God of compassion who comforts us (2Corinthians 1:3-4). The story of Elijah (1 Kings 19)
  • The Holy Spirit. We are reminded that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and as such it is our duty to care for them. (1 Corinthians 3:17)

We need to know and rely on our identity in Christ. So often we think we need to achieve in order to please God. Ephesians 1:12 says we are “to BE for the praise of his glory” not “to do”.  Staying healthy in ministry and sustaining ministry begins with a right sense of our identity in Christ and taking care of our own needs.

To help ourselves, each other and refugee communities, we have to understand a number of things.

What is stress?

Stress is a force or pressure. In materials it causes metals to bend, change their shape. In humans it is a natural response to new situations. It causes us to respond to the pressure, to adapt, to anticipate problems. It teaches us to cope with trying conditions while remaining effective. Good stress is useful – it helps you get up in the mornings!

Acute stress when we experience too many demands, too many stressful experiences, and can lead to destructive symptoms, depression, exhaustion and burnout. Overload may be felt gradually but is predictable.

Why do we get stressed helping refugees?

  • We are overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and the lack of immediate solutions
  • There are inadequate financial resources
  • We hear too many stories of atrocities, violence and trauma. We take them to heart and end up being traumatised ourselves
  • We deplete our resources by being constantly available to meet the need. We think we are indispensable
  • We are trying to handle too many roles – working by day, volunteering by night
  • We lose perspective, a sense of balance and of connection to people and sometimes to God

How do we recognise stress?

  • Before entering into stressful situations, it is helpful to know your usual symptoms of stress – physical (e.g. sleeplessness, loss of appetite), emotional ( excessive weeping, irritability, anger) and behavioural(e.g. withdrawal, addictions, inability to make decisions)
  • Talk to someone you trust, whom you trust when you feel under pressure. They will feed back on your behaviour

What can we do to prevent stress?

 Take good care of yourself physically – healthy eating, sleeping, exercise. Create exercise opportunities if the physical environment is harsh.

  • Talk to people, build a network of supportive relationships
  • Set boundaries – learn to say “no”
  • Have training on what to expect in the work

 

What is compassion fatigue?

The disturbing and stressful behaviours and emotions experienced by a helper of victims. They result from being exposed to the verbal details of the traumatic event. They lead to fatigue, weariness and some of the signs that trauma victims themselves experience.

 

How can pastors or organisations help?

  • Train volunteers in self-care as well as refugee-care
  • Control the schedule – insist on time off and model it themselves
  • Train teams in listening skills and encourage them to listen to each other
  • Remind them regularly of their identity in Christ
  • Encourage support social networks outside of the work
  • Have training themselves on staff care and specialist skills such as Critical Incident debriefing

“We are not stressed yet. But we are worried about getting deeper into refugee ministry than we can handle and so could end up in trouble.”

The fact that you have realised the danger is a good foundation for making sure this does not happen. Decide prayerfully and carefully what you can commit to doing and what you cannot do. The needs may be huge but give these needs to God for you cannot help everyone. He sees every individual and is responsible for each one. We are not. If you are reaching out to refugees on top of your normal commitments, inevitably your time is limited. Be careful not to overburden others (your fellow church members or your family) because of the commitments you accept but which will involve them.

Never feel that the contribution you can give is too small. The Lord has prepared good works for you to do (Ephesians 2:10). Do not do what He has prepared for others to do.

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How can I get involved in Turkey?

2018-12-15T01:01:06+01:00

Turkey is already hosting millions of refugees.  With the EU now returning refugees to Turkey and many, many refugees still coming into the nation from the South and East, the numbers are only going to increase.

We have also witnessed terrorist attacks and political instability.  Many tourists are keeping away.  The pressure is on Turkey – economically, politically and from a security perspective.

The Christian community in Turkey, both indigenous and foreign, is very small in number.  It is viewed with great suspicion by much of the media.  There is occasional intimidation and attack.

But great ministry is quietly being done for refugees.

The first thing we can do is to pray.  For the country, for Christians, for refugees.

The second thing to ensure is that we do not make life more difficult for Christians in Turkey.  Be careful about information you share publicly.  If Christians come to Turkey, they must be discreet.  With this in mind, there are a growing number of ways to get involved.

Volunteering: A new working group in Turkey has been tasked with discovering opportunities for short term work among the various refugee ministries on the ground.  If you are interested in how your church can serve these ministries, feel free to contact this working group through the Refugee Campaign’s Turkey point person.

Donations: There are several ministries that are set up to receive donations for projects among refugees in Turkey.  There are a number of ongoing humanitarian relief, development and other evangelical projects focused on refugees.  If your church is interested in being matched with a project through our Refugee Campaign partners, please contact the Turkey point person.

Prayer: There are both general and Turkey-focused prayer networks set up for those who want to pray for refugees.  From these networks you can receive regularly updated prayer requests from ministries and churches serving refugees in Turkey.

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Contact: Refugee Campaign Turkey point person

Chris McQueen

[email protected]

 

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