It's time to step up and do something. The refugee crisis has been worsening for over a year. With the conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa showing no sign of abating, many of us are feeling an urgent need to act.
One of the triggers for a renewed interest is the horrifying picture of young Aylan Kurdi, whose lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach. The fate of this Syrian child whose life ended in the Mediterranean seems like it might have been a watershed – British people will no longer accept intransigence from their leaders.
The first reaction of many is to feel helpless. Aylan died many hundreds of miles away from us. But this is our problem. As fellow humans, we are moved by the plight of refugees. As Christians, we can go further than that and say it is our duty to help.
So here are five things you can do today.
There are several petitions but one in particular seems worth attention – an official parliamentary petition. It's already garnered more than 100,000 signatures meaning the Government will have to consider it for Parliamentary debate. The more who sign, the stronger the message will be to ministers that the British people are demanding strong, swift and compassionate response.
Citizens UK is an alliance of civil society groups including many churches. It has been calling for every local council to agree to provide support for some refugees, who would be housed privately. If every local council in the country supported a number of refugees, the total we take in as a country would be significant but the cost and demands would be spread. You can sign up here to find out more and receive training in how to lobby your local council. You could also contact your MP and ask what they're doing in response to the crisis.
3) Host a refugee
This is obviously a big commitment, but it's one that some families, communities or churches could take on. The Church remains the biggest civil society movement in the UK. We have buildings, we have people, and we have spare rooms. Not only that, but we have the networks that could help people to settle. This isn't something to be taken lightly, but if you're interested, it could be life changing for you and them. Again, Citizens UK can advise on this. The Methodist Church has called on each of its congregations to support an individual refugee or family. Other churches could replicate this call.
There are several Christian organisations which are working in the Middle East and North Africa to ease the refugee crisis at its source. Tearfund, Christian Aid and Cafod are all doing work, while more specialist organisations such as Embrace the Middle East are also active. In terms of donating to organisations working with refugees already in Europe, the picture is patchier. Much work in Calais is going through the small French organisation Secours Catholique – although individuals who've visited with supplies say there is a need for more organisation and co-ordination of aid efforts for the Calais camp. The Calais Solidarity Facebook Group has more information.
This may sound obvious, but with such a huge problem, it can be hard to know how to begin to pray. Suggestions include praying for Christians in the Middle East that they would be agents of peace. Pray for politicians and administrators making decisions on how to deal with the crisis. Pray for compassion for European people and governments. Organise a prayer meeting (and take a collection to donate), make it a topic for prayers during Sunday services and keep sharing the latest information with your church.
This list isn't comprehensive and it may feel like these gestures are only small. But if Christians across the UK stepped up, we could be a big part of the answer. Do something today and help to change the lives of people who are fleeing misery and persecution. It's the least they deserve.