Jesus was a refugee. A collaborating puppet king orders baby boys to be slaughtered to protect his crumbling powerbase: it’s the ‘nasty’ part of the Christmas story that’s often airbrushed from nativity plays. However, we must never forget that Jesus and his parents fled to Egypt to escape the persecution of King Herod. It was a matter of life or death: the only way to ensure that Jesus survived.
The world may have changed since then but persecution remains. The UNHCR states there are 25.9 million refugees around the globe. All have made that horrendous decision to leave behind everything that is familiar in order to find sanctuary.
A small percentage seek sanctuary in the UK either through the asylum application process or through the Government’s resettlement scheme for Syrian refugees. We could ask the question, “If Jesus and his family lived in 2019 and claimed asylum in the UK, would they be granted refugee status by the Home Office?”
Jesus, who was a refugee, calls us to welcome the stranger and encourages us to bind up the broken hearted and free the oppressed.
For Birmingham Churches Together, that is where Restore comes in…..
Restore’s vision is for a society into which all refugees and asylum seekers are welcomed, valued and integrated.Restore works towards that vision becoming reality by:
- Building relationships and equipping for integration through befriending, group social activities and employability training.
- Motivating for action through raising awareness of refugee issues and opportunities to make a difference
- Working for change through partnering and campaigning with others to improve systems and services that affect refugees and asylum seekers.
Restore recognises the need to work at the micro-level supporting individual asylum seekers and refugees but also the need for change at the macro level in how host communities and Government respond.
What difference does Restore make?
Recently, a refugee popped into the Restore office to update us on his situation. Two years ago, he’d joined Restore as a newly arrived and isolated asylum seeker. He spent a year meeting others and learning about Birmingham through Restore’s men’s social activities and commented that he now takes new people to those same places.
He was linked to one of Restore’s team of over 100 volunteer befrienders, who offered regular support and encouragement. This was particularly important when his asylum application was refused as he was shocked by that decision and spent the next few months struggling with depression and anxiety.The consistent emotional support of the befriender was vital as the asylum seeker waited anxiously for his asylum appeal.
That appeal was successful so with his newly granted refugee status he was keen to rebuild his life. His befriender helped him explore new possibilities. He applied for and was granted a scholarship to embark on a Master’s degree.
Having just graduated, he is now optimistic about finding employment. Just one example of the difference Restore’s work makes!
Please pray for the resources for and impact of Restore’s work.
Please pray about how you can partner with Restore to ensure that refugees and asylum seekers in our city will be welcomed, valued and integrated.
With best wishes for a joyful
and peaceful Christmas
Most Revd Bernard Longley
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham
Rt Revd David Urquhart
Church of England Birmingham of Birmingham
Rev Ian Howarth
Free Churches Moderator & Chair of Birmingham Methodist District
The Presidents of Birmingham Churches Together
Photograph (c) 2015, Allen Morris. Family. Henry Moore, Tate Britain.