Kirk urges people to sign petition and pray as Scotland welcomes 1000th Syrian refugee

The Kirk has welcomed the news that 1,000 Syrian refugees have now been given safe haven in Scotland.

But it said more should be done by the UK Government to help people fleeing war and persecution.

Refugee family
A refugee family.

David Bradwell, Refugee Co-ordinator for Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees, has urged people to sign a petition and pray for progress this Sunday ahead of a UN refugee crisis summit in New York.

The Scottish Government announced today that the country has taken in 1,000 Syrian refugees since a summit was held in September last year.

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance said the milestone was reached in the past week when 120 new refugees arrived.

She urged the UK Government to accept more refugees and pledged that Scotland would continue to take its share.

Phenomenal response to crisis

Mr Bradwell said: "A thousand people is a significant number - 1,000 lives changed by coming to Scotland.

"A thousand chances for protection from war and violence and persecution.

"A thousand people to teach us more about the world."

Mr Bradwell, who is married to a Kirk minister and based at 121 George Street, said the response from local communities across Scotland has been "phenomenal".

"Yesterday I was in Aberdeen hearing about how volunteers are working with Syrian families to support their settling into life, with everything from offering lifts, babysitting, to supporting kids with their school homework," he added.

"Churches and church members are often at the heart of this response, many motivated by Jesus’ words to his follwers that ‘whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you do it for me’.

"A thousand people is worth marking – and thanking all those who have helped make a difference.

"But it is still a tiny number compared with the people in desperate need."

End strife and conflict

Mr Bradwell said Church of Scotland members can do two things as later this month the United Nations in New York will consider again what the world can do to help refugees.

The first is to sign the#WithRefugees petition

And the second is to pray for progress, particularly on Peacemaking Sunday, which this year is on 18 September, just before the UN talks.

Special resources have been prepared for those leading worship in churches on this Sunday, and prayer has been offered for people to use in the run-up to the summit.

It reads

Almighty God, inspire the leaders of the nations of the world and those with authority with love and wisdom, and open our hearts and hands to welcome the stranger, love our enemies and to do to others what we want them to do to us.

May your Holy Spirit reign in the hearts of those who have the power to end strife and conflict and may your presence be with those who seek to serve those in desperate need. We ask you to bless the international summits taking place in New York on Monday 19 and Tuesday 20 September.

Be in the conversation and the conferencing and in all things remind the mighty and powerful rulers of the desperate situation facing some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people on earth.

We pray especially for the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the President of the United States Barak Obama as they seek to work for diplomacy, peace and the common good of all humankind.

In the name of Christ, who declared “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be known as children of God”, Amen.

The Home Office has said the UK has been at the forefront of the international response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria and committed to resettling 20,000 refugees by 2020.

For more information on Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees visitwww.sfar.org.uk