Martin Charlesworth
History Repeating Itself

In 1938 Britain undertook a remarkable mercy mission towards the children of central European Jews. As Hitler’s anti-semitism took hold in Germany and as the Nazis annexed Austria, Czechoslovakia and other territories, so the threat to the lives of European Jews grew. In the short period of time left before the outbreak of war, many thousands of Jewish children were rescued by Britain through the Kindertransport scheme, sponsored significantly by a British lawyer, Nicholas Winton.

One of those saved by this scheme was Alf Dubs, who is now a member of the House of Lords. Lord Dubs has never forgotten what it meant to be saved from Nazi Czechoslovakia and received as a refugee into Britain.

Significantly, it was Lord Dubs who led the recent successful cross-party parliamentary campaign to persuade the UK Government to accept a significant number of unaccompanied refugee children for resettlement who are now in European refugee camps. Dubs specifically cited his personal experiences in the 1930s as a motivation for his advocacy of the plight of unaccompanied children. These children will be resettled alongside the 20,000 Syrian refugees the Government is due to accept during the lifetime of this Parliament.

Such a development will be welcomed by many Christians – as was the Kindertransport scheme of 1938-1939. It may well lead to many Christians offering their homes for fostering of refugee children.

All this means big challenges lie ahead for the Church as more and more dispossessed refugees arrive from the Middle East. The lack of resources faced by local government have been highlighted in the press recently. How are they going to house, educate and integrate this current wave of refugees from the Middle East? They need more resources from the UK Government – and this financial problem is sure to be in the news in the months ahead.

However, churches know that we need to be part of the answer to these issues. The early signs are good. Fresh initiatives are growing across the nation among Christians. The key issues being addressed are housing projects, befriending, English language teaching, help with navigating the benefits system, employment opportunities, fostering of children… and more.

Let’s be part of the solution.