How Norfolk churches can respond to Syria
Christian Aid has been inundated with queries about how churches can respond to the situation in Syria. Regional co-ordinator Julian Bryant suggests some ways local churches can make a difference
Syria and the ensuing refugee crisis is constantly in the news at the moment and each day we are faced with the desperate needs of people who need help. Find out the facts of the situation as much as you can. Look at the history of the conflict in Syria and the scale of the need for displaced people in the country and in neighbouring countries, as well as in Europe. More than seven million people are displaced inside Syria and several million more in need of humanitarian aid. Churches can seek to address the source of the refugee crisis in Syria, as well as the situation on our own doorstep but we need to be correctly informed.
As Christians we believe that God answers our prayers in different ways. This situation is complex and it is hard to see how it can be resolved. Prayer is vital in our response to the needs of Syria. We would therefore ask that you pray for a peaceful solution to be reached. We pray in different ways according to our personalities and our ‘style’ of church. It may be that you could arrange a vigil or a time of prayerful reflection or it may be that you pray loudly. The key thing is to ask people to pray and to pray in an informed way. Christian Aid can provide written prayers if you would find this helpful and can help you to organise a prayer event.
Ask your MP and the Government what they are doing
As well as a humanitarian response we need to address the causes of the situation. Throughout the Bible and in our history people have stood up and asked the authorities to do something for the sake of justice. This is the time to lobby your MP and to ask the Government what they are doing about the situation in Syria and the refugee crisis in Europe. It is vital that politicians hear your voice - it gives them permission to act compassionately in your name.
Give money to address the humanitarian needs of people in Syria and the surrounding area
Many churches have contacted us to say that they want to send clothes or other items to Syria. Like other organisations we think it is generally best to donate money because it’s the fastest and most effective way to help those who are suffering most. Here’s why:
1. Sending aid from the UK is expensive and takes a long time
Good-quality second-hand clothes and long-life food may seem like a good idea, but it takes weeks to ship items overseas. We work entirely through local partners on the ground and resource them. We simply cannot ship goods in this way. It’s much faster and cheaper to buy clothes and food locally as it is needed.
2. We want to help people as quickly as possible
The need in countries supporting refugees, like Lebanon and Iraq, changes on a daily basis, so money is the most effective way to help. With your donations, we can buy whatever is needed at that moment. Sourcing locally means we can reach people who need help faster.
3. Bringing in too much aid can damage local economies
It is amazing (and highly inspirational) to see how quickly people start trying to get back on their feet during a crisis like the one in Syria. In many areas, food and other essentials are still available locally, but they’ve become unaffordable for many people. Cash donations enable us to buy these things locally, giving people the opportunity to recover and regain their ability to support themselves.
4. Items on offer may not be what Syrians need most
Items given with the best of intentions may not be suitable for use by people in need in countries like Lebanon and Syria. Using cash to source things locally helps us to buy aid which is appropriate for the people we’re helping. If you have items which you’d like to donate for the Syrian cause, how about selling them at a car-boot sale, or through an online auction site? You can then donate the proceeds.
If you want to give items in Europe please contact the groups who are organising these collections and ask what they need before you start collecting. We would also recommend you check out groups and charities who you have not heard of before you give. The Charity Commission can advise you about this.
How to respond to Syrian refugees who are coming to the UK
Christian Aid works overseas, and with our ACT Alliance partners in Europe. This is where our expertise lies. There are a number of agencies who support refugees in the UK, including the Refugee Council and the Red Cross, as well as local groups. Therefore we would encourage churches to contact these groups to see what the needs are of refugees in the local area. Avoid knee jerk reactions and seek understanding about the situation in your area before you plan a response.
Christian Aid can help you and your church:
Understand the Syrian crisis in a more informed way
Help you to arrange a prayer event and provide prayer reflections
Lobby your MP and the Government with existing materials and training
To send money through our Refugee Crisis Appeal to where the need is great
Please contact Julian Bryant for more information or if you would like him to speak at your church: email@example.com
To donate or view some of our prayer resources: https://donate.christianaid.org.uk/refugees
reproduced from Network Norwich and Nofolk; and used with permission