Over the last six months, JPIT has been campaigning for an end to the ‘hostile environment’ immigration policies which are causing destitution, discrimination and distrust in our society. But how can our churches play a part in creating a more welcoming environment for migrants?
We begin a series of blogs on this theme with a guest article by Beth Rowland, Communications Officer for Welcome Churches, a national charity training churches and individuals to better welcome and integrate refugees into their communities. Welcome Churches’ vision is for every refugee in the UK to be welcomed by their local church.
Earlier this year, a JPIT blog asked if we have been complicit in creating the hostile environment. Have we not stood up for those who are shamed, isolated or discriminated against, simply because of who they are? Refugees and asylum seekers do not always have an easy journey in the UK – and that is after they have taken perhaps the hardest journey of their lives just to get to this country.
God calls us to love our neighbours: regardless of colour, creed or status, confusion and language barriers. Welcome Churches aims to equip churches to better welcome refugees and asylum seekers into the community, and offer models of practical projects and training support to make that happen. We believe that we can all work to make the hostile environment a more hospitable one.
Churches across the country that have worked with Welcome Churches have been transformed, welcoming refugees into their congregations, homes and lives. Volunteers have described having their hearts changed by learning more about different cultures and what it is like to seek asylum in the UK.
This has created an environment of love, as the Welcomers (volunteers) and their Neighbours (refugees and asylum seekers) have got to know each other, shared food together, and also, when appropriate, talked about the life of Jesus Christ. We have seen many Neighbours begin their own journey of faith after meeting with our Welcomers.
The Bible gives encouragement for Christians to share God’s grace and love with those with whom we share our communities. God calls us to welcome those who have had long, difficult journeys, to sit and eat with them and share his love with them. Our vision is to see every refugee and asylum seeker that arrives in the UK welcomed by their local church.
The hostile environment may be prevalent, but as Christians we have the communities and the calling to change that for our vulnerable neighbours. By welcoming your new neighbours into your community, you can help ease their burdens and take away some of their fears.
Welcome Churches wants to see every refugee living within their community, not outside of it, and we would love for churches to start their own journey by becoming a Welcome Church. Contact us if you or your church want to play a part in realising the vision that no refugee should be alone in the UK.
- help you put together an action plan identifying how you can reach out to refugees in your local context
- offer training so you are ready to run one or more of our Welcome Projects, including Welcome Boxes, Community Sponsorship, Welcome Holidays and Welcome Houses
- Connect you into our national Welcome Network, including a national referral system to help people find a church that will welcome refugees moving to a new area.
Find out more at www.welcomechurches.org
Is your church involved in building a more hospitable environment? If so, we’d love to hear and share your stories. Get in touch here.
Look out for further blogs in the ‘welcoming environment’ series over the coming weeks, at this time of year when we are reminded of how the newborn Jesus was laid in a manger because there was no room at the inn, and that his early years were spent as a refugee in Egypt.