The guidelines will help churches understand their responsibilities and the needs of those they are working with.
The recent story of the 39 people found dead in a lorry in Essex shines a fresh spotlight on the ordeals and dangers some people face in seeking refuge in the United Kingdom. How we support those that are most vulnerable is of the utmost importance.
Speaking in the Observer a few weeks ago after the bodies were discovered, the Archbishop of York said: “Many of the world’s religions share what we call the golden rule: treat others as you want to be treated. It’s a universal template for right behaviour towards one another. We just need to turn today’s sentiments of sadness into a national policy of welcome.”
Every church in the United Kingdom, no matter where it is based, has the opportunity to welcome refugees and asylum seekers into their community. There are lots of different initiatives churches are involved in as they follow the biblical mandate to welcome ‘the stranger’ and demonstrate Christian love and hospitality. However, understanding how to engage and offer support in a safe way can present a number of challenges.
The vision of Welcome Churches’ is for every refugee to be welcomed by the local church. They provide on-the-ground training, tools, and expertise for churches, equipping them to care practically for refugees and welcome them into their church community. Working in partnership with Thirtyone:eight, the UK’s only independent Christian safeguarding charity working to create safe places for all, this guidance has been produced to equip and empower churches to respond in a compassionate, loving and safe way to the needs of refugees and asylum seekers in their local communities.
Emily Holden, Operations Director at Welcome churches, said: “Welcome Churches is seeing huge growth in the number of churches joining our ‘Welcome Network’: an online platform profiling churches across the UK actively welcoming refugees into their communities. This is helping refugees all over the UK find a local church who will give them a warm welcome.
"As more and more churches are following the Biblical mandate to ‘welcome the stranger’ the safeguarding challenges can be difficult to navigate. We have been delighted to work with Thirtyone:eight to write these guidelines. They give much needed clarity to churches working with refugees and empower churches to welcome asylum seekers and refugees into the community and help them find a place to belong. These guidelines are beneficial to any church wanting to get involved in this ministry.”
Bill Stone, Safeguarding Advisor at Thirtyone:eight, who helped develop the resource said “Creating safe and welcoming places for refugees and asylum seekers within our churches is part of the church's mission. However, this needs to be done wisely in the full knowledge of the specific needs, risks and challenges this presents. That's why we've been so pleased to partner with Welcome Churches and bring our expertise together to produce this guidance and to help support the great work that is being done in this vital area.”
The guidance can be downloaded at: thirtyoneeight.org/resources