We spoke to Revd David Butterworth about the work being done by Birmingham Churches in response to the refugee crisis:
Few cities are responding as proactively to the refugee crisis as Birmingham.
The work of the Methodist Church in Birmingham, combined with the efforts of Citizens UK, has secured 50 homes for refugees in the city.
This result came after meetings with Birmingham City Council at both specifically organised events and City Council meetings.
As the situation worsens, pressure is being applied on local and national government in the hope of offering sanctuary to more refugees.
David Butterworth, a Methodist minister in the Birmingham district and spokesperson for Citizens UK Birmingham, has been part of the call to welcome refugees from the beginning.
He said: “As a Methodist, I believe our DNA is social justice and helping marginalised and vulnerable people.
“I have lived in areas in other places with lots of deprivation and many refugees and they have not always been well received. We are trying to encourage the country to receive these new refugees as well as we can without forgetting the plight of the refugees already in our communities.”
A lot of the success so far is down to the healthy relationship between the Birmingham District and advocacy agencies such as Citizens UK and on the ground practitioners such as RESTORE of Birmingham Churches Together and HOPE projects.
“The Birmingham District very much supports the offer of help to all refugees and our recent Representative Synod endorsed this pathway through the advocacy of Citizens UK and others. We also hold in great esteem agencies which have a proven track record of championing and assisting the holistic wellbeing of refugees for some considerable years. Those such as RESTORE help refugees from many countries who are already in the UK and are often unable to find public funding,” he said.
Work is under way to welcome refugees, not only in the Birmingham Circuit but also in others across the West Midlands including Coventry, Stratford -upon- Avon, Redditch and Wolverhampton. Training is a high priority for those who wish to befriend refugees and their families – hence agencies like RESTORE are crucial. Many who arrive may be in severe difficulty with shock and trauma and poor English language skills.
The Birmingham Circuit is a now a fully paid member of Citizens UK, just one part of the programme in the city which has seen groups of all faiths working together. Ministers from the outlaying parts of wider Birmingham have also written to councillors and MPs.
This collaboration across faiths was exemplified when more than 60 representatives from different faiths attended a meeting of Birmingham City Council to request that they listen to the will of the people of Birmingham and agree to welcome refugees to the city.
At the meeting Revd Butterworth read from a letter sent to the council. It included ‘asks’ to the full council chamber and called for more action in response to the ever worsening refugee crisis saying that the citizens of Birmingham are ready and willing to help –“and now, why not 200 for a city this size and with such a generous heart speaking 180 languages!”
He said: “As a welcoming city, we with all our citizens, partners and agencies, in many faith groups and community gatherings, have ramped up our support even more by offering trained befriending, English language lessons, sufficient private housing and homes – without the need for public housing. Wellbeing and healthcare, education, food and with a real ‘readiness of welcome’ is standing by. The reality is that Brum’s citizens are ready to offer even more, now.”
Many thanks to the Rev David Butterworth for sharing this story. If you think you have a story about your church that could give guidance to others who are eager to help please share it with us: