Update on Church response to refugee crisis
Published on 11 September, 2015
In recognition of the extraordinary situation facing refugees fleeing the crisis in Syria, a special meeting of the Councils and departments of the Church has taken place.
The Church and Society Council and the Finance Group of the Church have recognised the desire of church members to respond to the refugee crisis. The Church has an extraordinary depth of experience and resource which it can bring to bear to meet the needs of refugees arriving in communities in Scotland.
The meeting at Church Offices in Edinburgh looked at ways the Church can help resource congregations where refugees are eventually settled in Scotland. The focus was on providing practical, sustainable and long term assistance which would complement the initiatives of government and other agencies.
The Church has already been engaging with government, agencies and other churches and faith organisations to raise awareness of what assistance the Church can provide and secure the greatest chance of a coordinated response. Given the size and scale of the Church, the meeting was held in an attempt to ensure the response within the Church itself also benefits from appropriate coordination. It was also recognised that the response, wherever possible, will gain strength from being ecumenical and multi-faith. The Church has already issued interfaith statements in the last week to pledge a united response to the refugee crisis, and will continue in this joint working going forward. It is important to also continue campaign work to ensure this issue remains a priority even when the media spotlight moves on.
At present,it is unclear when, where and how many refugees will be arriving in Scotland.There was a recognition that no matter how many find a place of safety here, it will not present a solution to the current catastrophe. Many more displaced people will still be dependent on support beyond our shores, and our World Mission Council continues to work hard to ensure their needs are not overlooked. At the same time, the Church has to maintain undiminished the full range of support and services it currently offers on a routine basis to people in Scotland every day of the year.
The meeting heard about the social care network which already exists through Cross Reach,the Church's Social Care Council, which may be able to accommodate some of the care needs of those arriving. The Mission and Discipleship Council has the ability to equip church members with appropriate skills to meet the needs of refugees. There was a recognition the Church has a national membership which wants to respond, and there will be ways everyone who wishes can contribute their support to parishes where refugees are settled.
It was recognised that Ministers and church members can play a role in their communities in promoting radical hospitality and welcome for refugees. In some cases, there may be concerns and suspicions about strangers entering their midst. Congregations can play an important role in overcoming these prejudices.
As well as time and talent, the Church also has financial resources and there is the commitment to make money available to aid the short and long term response.
It is intended the meeting will result in a considered action plan to be published shortly. Measures will also be taken to keep members across the Church fully informed about what is happening, and enabled to contribute their own ideas and initiatives. In terms of resources, ACTS, the Joint Public Issues Team and Christian Aid are among the groups which have made prayers available. Worship resources are now being created which will be distributed through the Church website and other channels in the coming weeks.