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Rebecca Erskine is an Executive Assistant at the World Mission Council. She also sits on the Action Of Churches Together in Scotland- Anti Human Trafficking Group, and has an active interest in the response to the refugee crisis. Here she shares her thoughts on World Refugee Day 2017.
Checking the news has become a bit of an apprehensive activity. Headlines endlessly emerge, breaking news hurries across our screens, and dozens of case studies and images are presented before our eyes each day. Although this is an issue which has been with us for 1000’s of years, the media surge of at present brings the refugee crisis home in a way that perhaps before, was unimaginable to many.
More widely reported than ever, the crisis has urged people and countries around the world to respond to the needs of millions, calling on ethical, financial, political and legal resources. In the midst of the ongoing crisis, many corporations and organisations, including the United Nations Refugee Agency, have stated that they believe now is the time to show world leaders that the global public stands with refugees.
World Refugee Day is marked on the 20th of June in recognition of our need to deal with the immensity of this crisis. This year, on the 20th of June, the United Nations will launch its #WithRefugees petition, to send a message to authorities that they must work together to respond to this crisis more effectively, and work towards a better, safer World.
The World Mission Council seeks to support our partner churches and organisations who are working tirelessly to make an impact on the everyday lives of refugees. On this World Refugee Day, we reflect on the work some of our partner churches are doing in response to the imminent and long term needs of refugees in their countries. Below are just some examples of how our partners stand with refugees:
- St Andrew’s Refugee Service (StARS) provide quality education to over 280 refugee children from pre-school to senior grade 3. This takes place in a safe space for children to interact and play, where they also receive their breakfast and lunch. StARS also provide a psychosocial programme for women, which includes a young Somali women empowerment group, weekly Iraqi women support groups, a photography workshop for Southern Sudanese women, women’s sewing workshops, teenager mother support group, and a Sexual and Gender Based Violence awareness week programme.
- The National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon provide support for students trying to continue in education by helping with school supplies, for example providing books, stationary, bags, winter clothes and shoes.
- In the Church of South India, nutritional supplements for pre-school children and the elderly are given to the Refugees Rehabilitation Programme in the Karimnager Diocese. Safe transportation, income generation training for women, health screening and career guidance for youth are also provided.
- The Church of Central Africa Presbyterian Blantyre Synod, Malawi and Evangelical Church of Christ in Mozambique, support formal and informal refugee camps with the provision of food and other basic needs, including spiritual support.
- The Presbyterian Church in Myanmar provides food and shelter construction for communities that have been displaced by floods and landslides within the Chin state.
- The Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy provides accommodation for up to 6 months for refugees, where courses in Italian, legal assistance and vocational training are offered.
- The Evangelical Church of Greece provides safe, ‘homely’ feeling spaces where refugees can have their own personal space, receive basic health care, education for their children and daily social interaction with the local community.
- The Church of Scotland’s Needing A Neighbour Campaign supports the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan who provide relief for those who have been displaced because by the civil war. Through their agency, the Presbyterian Relief and Development Agency (PRDA), they are able to reach areas in great need with much needed assistance. David Bradwell, the Church of Scotland’s Refugee Coordinator, is doing an interfaith Pilgrimage in July to raise money for this project. You can sponsor him here.
These are a few examples of the work undertaken by our partners across the globe. On this World Refugee Day 2017, and each time you turn on the news and are presented with the refugee crisis, please keep in mind our partners across the world who are reaching out to refugee communities and individuals, and who work hard rebuilding lives with peace, love and dignity. The World Mission Council stands with its partners who work to end this crisis.
Visit the Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees webpage for more information on the Church of Scotland’s response to the current refugee crisis in the UK.