Natalie Williams
The crisis continues...

Three weeks ago, our newspapers, TV screens and Facebook timelines were filled with the image of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on the beach after his desperate family tried to reach safer lands. To a certain extent, the headlines have quietened down but, thankfully, they haven’t disappeared. The ongoing crisis is still the subject of media scrutiny and conjecture.
European leaders disagree over the right approach, but know that something needs to be done. British Prime Minister David Cameron has committed to taking in 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years. Local authorities have been asked if they’re willing to help when the refugees arrive and, if so, how many refugees they could cope with.
Where I live, in Hastings, my council has already agreed to welcome 100 refugees over the next five years. The leader of Hastings Borough Council wrote a column in our local newspaper last week saying that he was “not surprised by the flood of offers of help [he’s] received for welcoming and befriending refugees, as well as offers of accommodation” and that the council will be putting together a register of people who want to help refugees to “make a home” in Hastings.
At the other end of the country, Durham County Council has also been quick to outline its willingness to help. It set up the Durham Humanitarian Support Partnership earlier this month to explore the city’s role in responding to the crisis, stating: “It will seek to work with churches, the voluntary sector and other partners to identify what help may be required...”
Several church leaders have been in contact with Jubilee+ this month to ask how we can respond to the refugee crisis. Initially we put together a short briefing paper (you can read it here), and one of our recommendations was for churches to contact their local councils to let them know we are here and willing to be involved.
Many Christians across the country have responded already – more than 10,000 people have signed up with Home for Good this month to register their interest in adopting or fostering an unaccompanied refugee child, for example. And the Cinnamon Network is highlighting the ‘Welcome Boxes’ project, which is run by the Upbeat Communities social enterprise and is easy to replicate in your own church setting.
There are lots of things we we can do as individuals and churches over the coming months and years to support refugees when they arrive and make them feel at home in our communities. Why don’t you start by contacting your council to let them know you’re willing to help? It may make the difference in whether they feel they can respond to the Government positively and feel they can cope with more refugees than they would otherwise commit to.

Either way, it’s good for the church to step up at this time and be at the forefront of welcoming those from other countries who are looking for safety and security for their families here.