Refugees & asylum

Over recent decades we’ve seen an extraordinary increase in the movement of people across countries. Some movement has been by choice - people pursuing new job opportunities or relationships. Some has not - people fleeing areas where resources are no longer sufficient to sustain life, or where persecution and war threaten lives and livelihoods.

What questions does it raise about identity, who we are and how we define ourselves? About our obligations to our fellow humans? About the relationship between the individual, faith, and the state?

Many churches will be looking for ways to explore these issues theologically and in terms of policy; others will be hoping to take practical action, perhaps through supporting refugees. The following resources offer guidance in these areas.

Be aware
  • Church of England page on migration, including guidance for clergy on supporting asylum seekers
  • Churches Refugee Network — the leading network for churches that want to pray and act in support of refugees and discuss questions relating to refugee policy.
  • Christian Concern for One World (CCOW) — networks and supports Thames Valley churches and community groups who want to offer support to refugees.
  • Centre on Migration, Policy and Society — Oxford University centre that 'conducts high quality research, develops theory and facilitates knowledge exchange in the field of migration'.
  • Joint Public Issues Team — collaborative effort by Baptist, Church of Scotland, Methodist, and URC churches, working together for peace and justice. Excellent section on migration and asylum.
  • Migrant Voice — a migrant-led organisation established to develop the skills, capacity and confidence of members of migrant communities, including asylum seekers.
  • Refugee Council — works nationally to support refugees and to advocate on questions that affect refugees.
  • Welcome Churches - Welcome Churches offers training and support to help your church to be a welcoming community for refugees.
  • Reading Refugee Support Group — Solicitor and volunteer caseworkers offer confidential advice and support; language classes and a homework club; initiatives to promote integration.
  • Asylum Welcome (Oxfordshire) — supports asylum seekers and refugees, including unaccompanied children. They host a Welcome Centre, and provide community information and a sending address for letters. They also provide advice on the immigration process, and host women’s and men’s groups.
  • Refugee Resource (Oxfordshire) — supports refugees, asylum seekers, and vulnerable migrants by providing psychological, social, and practical support. They also work with the Citizens Advice Bureau and immigration solicitors.
  • Open Door Oxford — a drop-in service for refugees and asylum seekers run by volunteers offering advice, information, support, recreational activities and a free lunch.
  • Sanctuary Hosting — helps refugees and vulnerable migrants find options for independent living across the Thames Valley, including finding host families.
  • Tips and suggestions for supporting asylum seekers placed in local hotels, including initial visiting, building relationships, and what support you might be able to give.

In 2021, as the crisis in Afghanistan began to unfold, the Revd Liz Jackson wrote a powerful message of practical ways to act, as well as reflecting why we should. The points raised here still hold today.

You might like to use the following prompts to aid your prayers:

Dear Lord,
You crossed from heaven to earth,
Laying aside your equality with God,
Humbling yourself because of your love for us.
Your parents fled with you from persecution,
Carrying you in their arms along dusty roads,
Uncertain what was ahead.
You wandered as a teacher,
Breaking boundaries in the people you talked with
And healed… and loved.
You are with us now
In our world in motion.

Dear Lord,
We lift before you
All who are fleeing persecution and war
Knowing your love for them and your power to heal and comfort.
In this changing world,
Help all people to recognise your image in each person
And to remember each is precious in your sight.
Guide those in authority
To make decisions about migration
That honour each person’s humanity.
Help us to offer welcome to new neighbours,
Seeing you in the person we greet.
Break down the barriers of hostility
That keep us apart
And diminish our humanity.
We ask these things
Trusting in your infinite love.

Our series of How to... films give practical tips from local people already working in these areas. In How to... Support refugees in your area, Alyson Peberdy talks you through a step-by-step guide for churches and small groups.

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