How to fulfil Matthew 25. The UK government has agree to accept 20,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees over the next five years. A Middle East writer living in the UK offers some practical suggestions to help us care for these new arrivals and other refugees already living among us.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:34-40)
Christ could not have been any clearer. He asks us to help those in need as if it is him we are helping. He warns us that if we fail to do so we fail him.
More than 5,000 people have died in the Mediterranean this year attempting to escape conflict, persecution or poverty in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. The political debate around the issue is heated: are these people migrants or asylum seekers? Are they fleeing wars or seeking to settle somewhere for a better life? Can or should Europe receive them?
As Christians we can have different political opinions on this but none of that overrides the imperative given us in Matthew 25. We are witnessing a historic crisis, not in the abstract, but with a real human cost. We know we need to pray for these people and to have a heart for them, but we also know we need to act.
A Christian friend of mine who has been helping refugees in the UK for a decade said while she is heartened to see such a wide cry for refugees, she is also worried that this is just a temporary outburst which many people will forget. She used the disturbing and challenging phrase: refugees are not just for Christmas.
So what can we do? Here are some places to start:
- Contact your local authority, the Refugee Council, the British Red Cross or Refugee Action to find how your church or individuals can support asylum seekers and refugees in your area. The Red Cross also has a dedicated phone line you can call on 0800 107 8727.
- The National Council for Voluntary Organisations can point you to local charities working with refugees. There could be many ways you can help, from befriending through teaching classes in English or other practical skills and even refereeing football.
- Visit the UK government web page giving updates on the Syrian refugee resettlement programme and how you can help.
- Towns which for many years have been part of the national dispersal scheme that settles numbers of asylum seekers will have strong experience of supporting people from many countries including the Middle East. Charities and churches working in dispersal centres near you will be able to advise you if your town has not had previous experience of settling asylum seekers. If your town is a dispersal centre, the council or charities may know people who have been given leave to remain who are looking for accommodation. They will also know the situation and background of those they are supporting.
- Check out the work of small British charity Refugee Support Network, which helps young refugee children to adjust to life in the UK and pursue their education. You can even volunteer with them to coach a refugee.
- Look at the work of Phoenix Community Care in London. They are a foster care agency who also host young asylum seekers in a number of houses they own in the London area.
- The Evangelical Alliance has a project called Home for Good, which encourages Christians to adopt and offer foster care to vulnerable people. Your church can all come together to host one or two refugee families.
- Bridges for Communities was begun by Christians in Bristol and Cardiff and promotes safe spaces for people from different communities, cultures and faiths to get to know one another over food or working together. It also runs a befriending scheme pairing volunteers with refugees and asylum seekers.
- Read The Book of Boaz: Jesus and His Family Sought Asylum – What Welcome Would They Have Found in Modern Britain? Dave Smith, the author, has many years’ experience of supporting destitute asylum seekers in the Manchester area where he founded the Boaz Trust.
- Directly donate to international bodies like the UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency), and IRC(International Rescue Committee), Tear Fund, World Vision. They bring direct aid to many refugees in difficult situations.
- Christian Solidarity Worldwide raises the suffering of Christians in the Middle East and support their work in human rights advocacy.
- Consider supporting SAT-7: Our Arabic SAT-7 KIDS television programmes cater for the needs of refugees, from providing 90-minutes a day of curriculum education for children who cannot currently go to school to offering wider educational and spiritual programmes. For most refugees in camps and in urban locations, television is the only way to keep up with the world and learn and receive support. That is why many of them have televisions even though they live in cramped, sub-standard or makeshift accommodation.
This is not a comprehensive list, and there are many other amazing organisations doing a great work.
It just goes to show that you can do various things: from giving your time, funds, to even opening your home or another property you own. And this is not a call just for you, you can mobilise your church and other Christian friends to come together and do these things together.
It is clear. The world is in need. We are called to respond to it. This is the moment for us to demonstrate the Love of Christ to a world that needs it more than ever.