The ministers of the 13 churches that make up Churches in Bicester think so. Together they have formed a Refugee Support Group to look at how Bicester Churches can work together in response to the unfolding tragedy that is happening on our doorstep.
The aims of CIB Refugee Support are simple:
1. Raise awareness within Churches in Bicester and the community of the current refugee situation and how Bicester people can help.
2. Provide information and advice about possible ways to respond to the refugee crisis through the development of a database of agencies.
3. Establish ways of supporting refugees placed locally through befriending refugees resettled in Bicester; providing advice and signposting to the services resettled refugees might need; offering hospitality, giving emotional and practical support.
4. Help channel support for work amongst refugees abroad through known and trusted agencies.
5. Act as a point of contact for the local agencies.
It’s early days for this group and we don’t yet know what role Bicester will be playing when the first wave of refugees come to the UK early in 2016, but we want to be ready.
But first here are some frequently asked questions about the refugee situation.
What is a refugee?
The United Nations defines a refugee as having a “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion (and) is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”
How many refugees are coming to Europe?
The EU border agency Frontex, says that 710,000 people arrived at Europe’s borders between January and September 2015.
Where are the refugees coming from?
In October 2015, the United Nations reported that 53% of migrants and refugees to Europe were from Syria, 18% from Afghanistan, and 6% from Iraq.
Why is there such migration to Europe now?
Although there are a number of root causes – including armed conflicts, and economic and environmental instability, the ongoing Syrian civil war is a major factor. The current European situation has been described as a “mixed migration” situation.
How is the UK Government responding?
On 7 September 2015 the Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced that the UK would accept up to 20,000 Syrian refugees during the next 5 years.
Here is Oxfordshire’s perspective
Locally, Oxfordshire County Council leader, Councillor Ian Hudspeth (Cons) made a public statement on 8 September reinforcing the Prime Minister’s pledge to focus UK support on ‘orphaned and vulnerable children’. He said “There are many strong and active community and faith groups in Oxfordshire who may also want to be part of the county-wide response.” (www.oxfordshire.gov.uk)
Cherwell District Council has also recently received many questions at to how local communities can help the Syrian refugee crisis. On 28 October, the Council highlighted that although there is no surplus accommodation, the District is preparing emergency solutions and directed those interested in fostering a refugee child to the County Council. (www.cherwell.gov.uk)
And MP for North Oxfordshire, Victoria Prentis (Cons), has been promoting the Singing for Syrians initiative asking for churches and communities to host fundraising carol concerts in 2015 to help people affected by the Syrian conflict. Money raised will go to Christian Aid and the Hands Up Foundation, both of which are providing relief aid to Syria. (www.victoriaprentis.com)
What Can You Do?
The situation facing refugees coming to Europe is changing rapidly. Perhaps consider . . . receiving the email and print newsletters produced by the organisations listed below or search the twitter feed #refugeecrisis
Consider giving financial support to one of the many organisations directly working to ease the suffering of refugees in the camps and those here in the UK either as an individual or a group. Perhaps consider . . . organising a fund raising event for one of the organisations involved the refuges in the UK. Here are a few - just click on the logo:
Many organisations have links on their website where people can volunteer their time. Perhaps consider . . . volunteering at Asylum Welcome, an Oxford based charity that helps refugees in our area. (www.asylum-welcome.org)
And most important of all – Pray.
- · For the refugees as they make their perilous journey to safety.
- · For aid worker in the camps and war zones
- · And for an end to the conflict.
Perhaps consider . . . setting up a prayer group. There are many resources to help you such as those produced by the Jesuit Refugee Service and Prayers for Migrants.
Get involved with the CIB Refugee Support Group.
CIB Refugee Support Group is all inclusive involving all faiths and none.
Contact the group representative at your church to find out more about what we are doing to help with the crisis. We would also like to hear from you if you have a skill you can share or can offer any form of practical help in settling refugees located in Bicester.
Alternatively, contact us through the general information email email@example.com
Churches in Bicester are:
- · Bicester Community Church
- · Bicester Methodist Church
- · Elim ‘Lighthouse’ Church
- · Emmanuel Church Bicester
- · Highway Christian Church
- · Journey Communities
- · Orchard Baptist Church
- · Parish of the Immaculate Conception
- · The Redeemed Christian Church of God Impact Centre
- · St. Edburg’s Church
- · Salvation Army Christian Centre
- · Zion Way Church
- · St. Mary’s Church, Launton
Working together to love and serve the people of Bicester, CIB provide various local community initiatives, including the Foodbank, Street Pastors, debt counselling, and the KIngsmere Welcome group.