How you can help refugees: Community Sponsorship works, says Salvation Army

Salvation ArmyNick Coke of the Salvation Army is responsible for helping the refugees settle in

On World Refugee Day today, the Salvation Army is encouraging communities to help refugee families through the government's Community Sponsorship Scheme.

The Salvation Army has been calling, along with other groups, for people to support the scheme, under which the government pledged to resettle 20,000 refugees by 2020.

One of The Salvation Army's London churches welcomed its first refugee family into London earlier this year, after Lambeth Palace did the same last year.

Major Nick Coke, the Refugee Coordinator for The Salvation Army, said: 'Community Sponsorship offers people who have been in appalling circumstances sanctuary. All the children have known is fleeing war, now they have a roof over their heads, a school, and friends.

'It's profound to think that one of the children was living on a roundabout in Lebanon three months ago, yet since then they have sung in their new school choir at the Royal Albert Hall – and the parents went to watch.'

In the UK, many of The Salvation Army's church and community centres help refugees living in their communities on an individual basis.

Coke said: 'Community Sponsorship is a great way to help resettle refugees because the whole community can get involved. It opens up untapped resources within the community that can help people settle in and feel a part of our society for the long term. Community Sponsorship is something that works now, and will work for generations to come because of that integration with the local community.'

The appeal came as various Christians and others today took part in events around the number 20 to raise awareness and sponsorship funds for the resettlement of refugees.

Russell Rook, the founder and head of the Good Faith Partnership which campaigns on behalf of refugees, is running along with others across 20 bridges over the River Thames as part of the Church Response for Refugees.

Rook told Christian Today: 'Every three seconds someone somewhere is forced to flee their home by war, violence and disaster. UN figures released yesterday show that the current refugee crisis is growing by the day. This is the largest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II.

'Thanks to the work of churches, Christian charities, faith communities, civil society organisations and the government there is now a new opportunity for local community groups to play their part in welcoming refugees here in the UK. The Community Sponsorship Programme For Refugees enables local communities to sponsor, welcome and host a family of refugees in their own community.'

It is believed that so far, fewer than 5,000 refugees have been resettled under the scheme, and in January it emerged that only two Syrian refugee families had been resettled, while Canada had resettled more than 13,000 Syrian refugees through a similar private sponsorship programme since November 2015.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Home Secretary Amber Rudd launched the Community Sponsorship Scheme last July at Lambeth Palace. 

Welby also confirmed that he is housing a family on the grounds of Lambeth Palace, the first community group to be approved for receiving refugees.

'It's an enormous privilege to welcome a family to live in a cottage in the grounds of Lambeth Palace,' he said. 'I am hugely grateful to the Home Office and Lambeth Council for their tireless work and support in enabling this to happen.'

He added: 'The Full Community Sponsorship Scheme presents churches and other civil society groups with the opportunity to provide sanctuary to those fleeing war-torn places. Refugees, like all people, are treasured human beings, made in the image of God, who deserve safety, freedom and the opportunity to flourish.'