Welcome to our morning worship in Refugee Week. This service has been prepared by Mervyn and Chris Flecknoe, and is shared with our friends at Baildon at 10.30am
Refugee Week is a UK-wide festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary.
The vision of Refugee Week is for refugees and asylum seekers to be able to live safely within inclusive and resilient communities, where they can continue to make a valuable contribution. The Methodist Church in Britain suggests that we designate today, Sunday 26 June, as Refugee Sunday.
Today, with the help of some Bible passages, hymns, and prayers, we will reflect on how we, as Christians, should respond to the refugee crisis. Every single person living in Britain today is descended from immigrants. Our ancestors left their homes and travelled to this country and within this country for a better life; surely missing their old homes, their old friends, their old landscapes. They came here, they settled, and they mixed with each other. Throughout our history, moving here has changed the people who came, and they have changed Britain. Our changing population has been an unchanging fact. The story of migration is the story of our nation seen through the lives of all of us. But migrating is not without pain. The number of people displaced by war, fear, famine, persecution, and environmental changes increases…
Let’s begin with some facts:
1. The United Nations recently estimates that the number of displaced people has passed 100 million for the first time.
1. Over 9000 asylum seekers have crossed the Channel so far this year in small and often dangerous boats. Many come from countries torn by war, persecution, and destitution including Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, Sudan, and Ethiopia.
2. The Government is planning to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda, not a country noted for its stability and tolerance. The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that this scheme “does not stand the judgement of God”.
3. Over two weeks in August last year, 15,000 people were airlifted out of Afghanistan and were placed in hotels in the UK. Around 12,000 of these still remain stranded in hotels.
4. Eight million Ukrainian people have been displaced within their home country as a result of the war, along with more than six million refugee movements to other countries in Europe.
5. For almost all people fleeing desperate circumstances, hoping to reunite with family members in the UK or seeking security and a better life in the UK, there is simply no process that can facilitate a safe, regulated journey. The Home Office expects people to physically reach the UK before an asylum application can be lodged.
6. Lebanon has a population of about 5 million of whom 1million are refugees from Syria; that is one in four of the home population.
Reading: Matthew 2:13-15
After the scholars were gone, God’s angel showed up again in Joseph’s dream and commanded, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Stay until further notice. Herod is on the hunt for this child, and wants to kill him.” Joseph obeyed. He got up, took the child and his mother under cover of darkness. They were out of town and well on their way by daylight. They lived in Egypt until Herod’s death.
A collect for Refugee Sunday
Dear Persecuted Lord, whose family fled violence in the night, to a foreign land, to live as refugees, we, who are descendants of refugees, pray for all those who have fled their homes, and who live precariously, not knowing what tomorrow may bring, and we ask you what we must do for them. Amen
Singing the Faith 611 – Brother, Sister, let me serve you
Many years ago, Jewish people were forcibly expelled from Palestine to Babylon, much as we in this country expelled all Jews in 1290, or Idi Amin expelled all “Asians” from Uganda in 1972. This psalm of lament gives us an insight into how they felt:
|By the rivers of Babylon—|
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our harps.
For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’
|How could we sing the Lord’s song|
in a foreign land?If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy.
Leviticus has some clear advice about how we should welcome and provide for refugees
Leviticus 19:9-10 and 33-34
“When you harvest your land, don’t harvest right up to the edges of your field or gather the gleanings from the harvest. Don’t strip your vineyard bare or go back and pick up the fallen grapes. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am God, your God …When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don’t take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am God, your God”.
Singing the Faith 701 – Heaven shall not wait
Harpal Kumar’s parents were refugees, forced out of Pakistan during the bloody Partition of India in 1947. After living in refugee camps, they ended up in London where Kumar’s father supported his family by sweeping factory floors.
Kumar is the chief executive of Cancer Research UK, one of the UK’s biggest and most successful charities. He holds honorary doctorates from two universities and was a Baker scholar at Harvard Business School – making him part of the top 5% of his class.
Kumar was knighted in 2016’s New Year honours list for services to cancer research. He is chair of the National Cancer Advisory Group and a member of the National Cancer Transformation Board.
Priti Patel’s Hindu parents were refugees from Uganda in the 1960s, anticipating Idi Amin’s expulsion of all Asians from Uganda. Patel was promoted from the secretary of state for international development to being Home Secretary. She is responsible for implementing our Government’s policy towards refugees.
For most of the last 150 years, more people have left the UK to live abroad than have entered. Until 1982, Australia subsidised immigrants from the UK so that they only paid a £10 fare. Two Australian prime ministers arrived under the scheme – Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott
Here are two stories about children whose families have left their homes in Syria:
Alia fled her home in Aleppo, Syria and is currently living in an Italian supported refugee camp in Damour, Lebanon. “The last thing I remember of Syria, before we left, was when my mother was taking me from our place to our grandparents’. The roads were full of dead corpses. I saw dead people with no heads or no hands or legs. I was so shocked I couldn’t stop crying. To calm me down, my grandfather told me they were mean people, but I still prayed for them, because even if some considered them mean, they were still dead human beings. Back at home, I left a friend in Syria, her name was Rou’a. I miss her a lot and I miss going to school with her. I used to play with her with my Atari but I couldn’t bring it with me. I also used to have pigeons—one of them had eggs. I would feed them and care for them. I’m worried about them, I really pray someone is still caring for them. But here I have a small kitten that I really love! I miss my home a lot. I hope one day we’ll be back and things will be just like before.”
Shafaq fled her home in Dera’a, Syria and is currently living with her family in Bekaa, Lebanon. She shared her story with us through the Middle East Children’s Alliance, which provides emergency support to newly arrived refugees in Lebanon. Shafaq is 14 years old.
“I used to have a peaceful life and live in my amazing home in Dera’a. I enjoyed the nature around my house and the food coming from the land. I woke up every morning to the sound of birds singing. The brutality of the civil war forced my family to leave this house and to start the journey to be refugees. We moved a lot in Lebanon, and I attended different schools. My father is working as an electrician and this is the only income for our family. All of my family we are living in a tiny house with one bedroom, a small kitchen, and a bathroom. We are considered illegal because we don’t have official documents.
I want to finish my education to help my family, and to help other people who want to learn. I consider myself lucky because I got a lot of educational, emotional, and psychological support. But I am also really sad because of the unknown future waiting for me. Every day I wonder where I will be tomorrow. Yes, it’s an unknown future.”
Singing the Faith 706 – Longing for Light, we wait in darkness
The whole book of Ruth, four chapters, tells a story of immigration. It is worth reading all through. Here is an excerpt:
Once upon a time—it was back in the days when judges led Israel—there was a famine in the land. A man from Bethlehem in Judah left home to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The man’s name was Elimelech; his wife’s name was Naomi; his sons were named Mahlon and Kilion—all Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They all went to the country of Moab and settled there.
Elimelech died and Naomi was left, she and her two sons. The sons took Moabite wives; the name of the first was Orpah, the second Ruth. They lived there in Moab for the next ten years. But then the two brothers, Mahlon and Kilion, died. Now the woman was left without either her young men or her husband.
One day she got herself together, she and her two daughters-in-law, to leave the country of Moab and set out for home; she had heard that God had been pleased to visit his people and give them food. And so she started out from the place she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law with her, on the road back to the land of Judah.
After a short while on the road, Naomi told her two daughters-in-law, “Go back. Go home and live with your mothers. And may God treat you as graciously as you treated your deceased husbands and me. May God give each of you a new home and a new husband!” She kissed them and they cried openly…
Ruth said, “Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me God—not even death itself is going to come between us!”
When Naomi saw that Ruth had her heart set on going with her, she gave in. And so the two of them traveled on together to Bethlehem…
And so Naomi was back, and Ruth the foreigner with her, back from the country of Moab. They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.
So, this story about Ruth shows us one of the many ways in which people move to a new country.
Bradford Ecumenical Asylum Concern, helps refugees at every stage. It offers housing, friendship, professional legal help, and mentors. Refugees can be refused asylum on what we would regards as trivial issues, in different interviews three years apart, one seeker mentioned looking after sheep and goats, in the second, he only mentioned sheep, so the Home Office determined that he was unreliable. The process of gaining asylum can take many years. Many seekers are detained in camps that resemble wartime prisoner of war camps. Some are now being offered the choice to return to the war-zone from which they came or being transported to Rwanda. BEACON helps these seekers in their efforts to gain the right to remain in this country, which we have because of the accident of our birth. As a circuit, we support BEACON in its work.
Reflection: how as followers in the footsteps of Jesus, can we respond to the needs of refugees.
Sometimes, we can feel overwhelmed and helpless in the face of so much need and such a complex global issue. We suggest just a few ways in which we can engage with the asylum and refugee issues.
* We can do our best to keep well-informed. Many of our newspapers and indeed our government are rather hostile to asylum seekers. We can find a fuller picture by reading material sent out by organisations like BEACON or The Refugee Council, or Safe Passage the charity which particularly supports and campaigns for refugee children.
* We can pray for asylum seekers and refugees, and for inspiration about how we can help.
* We can donate money to organisations working with asylum seekers and refugees.
* We can challenge negative stereotypes and misinformation about asylum seekers and refugees amongst our friends and acquaintances.
* We can lobby our politicians to create safe routes and processes through which people fleeing war, famine, and persecution can apply for asylum in this country and have their claims fairly and justly
* We can campaign for the UK to be more generous in its overseas aid budget to address the abject poverty and scarcity of resources that so often contribute to global movements of people, and for more to be done to address climate change which, if left unchecked, will only add to the displacement of people as some parts of the world become almost uninhabitable.
* We can seize any opportunities that come our way to get to know and to offer the hand of friendship to asylum seekers and refugees for as the Bible says in Hebrews Chapter 13, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
You understand; help us to understand
You abandoned luxury when you went into the desert; help us to count our luxuries as worthless so that we may share what we have
You loved the stranger, the despised, the foreigner; help us to copy your loving example
You talked about the use of money more often than anything else; help us to review our spending so that we can proudly present to you
You helped your followers turn their guilt in betraying you into action for the benefit of all humankind; help us to forgive ourselves so that we, too, might serve in your kingdom of peace and equality.
We ask your blessing on our lives, on our gifts to this church, on our gifts to good causes, and on the money we retain for our own use.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Parent, who is among us, blessed be your Creation.
May your reign be a reality here on earth.
May we become more interested in building your kin-dom here and now
than in waiting for it to come down from above.
Let us share our bread with those who hunger.
Let us learn to forgive as well as to receive forgiveness.
Help us through the time of temptation, delivering us from all evil.
For ours are the eternal blessings that you pour upon the earth.
Singing the Faith 720 – We turn to you, O God of every nation
May the Lord bless you!