How are we to respond as human beings, as Christians and as a Church to the plight of refugees and migrants across Europe? The pictures on our screens have been heart-rending. Many of us will have been moved to tears. But how do we translate this outpouring of compassion into action and help others to do the same? What should we do?
One of the deepest truths in the Bible is that God blesses people so that those people in turn can become a blessing to others. God calls Abraham in these words: “I will bless you…so that you will be a blessing”. When God blesses us we are not to feel special. We are not to hoard those blessings and keep them to ourselves. We are blessed so that we might bless others – all the families of the earth. Everyone.
As a country, we have not been blessed with peace and security and wealth and peace for our own benefit alone. Safety is given so that safety and a future can be shared. We are called as a country to be open handed, open hearted, to give a home to those in greatest need, to carry relief and fresh vision to countries whose heart is ripped apart by war. We are called to find room.
I recently met with Faith Leaders across the city of Sheffield and with church leaders of different denominations. Our communities are united in compassion for the plight of the efugees. We are united in the belief that Britain can and should do more. The faith communities stand ready to help in partnership with local and national government in welcoming those who find a home in our communities whatever their faith and country of origin. Sheffield was the first City of Sanctuary in Britain and remains in the front line of welcoming strangers.
I have written to the Prime Minister, urging him to offer leadership in two ways: to support Britain playing its full part in offering sanctuary to those now on the move in Europe as part of a European wide settlement and to encourage new international initiatives to resolve the conflict in Syria which is the root cause of this migration.
Many Christians and local churches have already begun to do more. I’ve listed some of the local charities and national agencies which are channelling help to refugees. Please translate this outpouring of compassion into action through gifts and support for some of these initiatives. There is no need to wait until a new wave of refugees arrive. Charities in the region are already hard at work helping people in need here and across Europe and the Middle East. Please encourage local and national government that, as a country, we support a bigger, more generous response still to one of the great crises of our age.
+ Bishop Steven