Working with refugees – whether those who have spontaneously arrived in UK and Ireland, or those arriving as part of government-backed resettlement programmes – is an opportunity for Christians and congregations to think again about other faiths and religions.
Meeting God in Friend and Stranger was originally published in 2010 by the Catholic Church in England and Wales. It is a teaching document on inter-religious dialogue “reminding Catholics that they are called by their Baptism to engage in dialogue with others, and specifically with people of other religions”.
In Britain today we are engaged in a process of learning how to construct and live in a society made up of people of many different faiths. This is a process from which no-one is excused. Our common good depends on it.
One practical example in the document is the Asylum Seekers and Refugees Project, an initiative by the Hexham and Newcastle Diocesan Justice and Peace Coordinating Council. They offer refreshments, recreation, chat in shared languages, conversational English practice, and advice from visiting agencies. Food collected by over forty parishes and small amounts of money are given to failed asylum-seekers who have no accommodation or financial support, but who cannot be deported because, for example, there is no safe route.
Fourteen years after starting, the latest newsletter from the group shows that they are working with 444 asylum seekers and refugees from 43 countries. They say that the services offered are “under considerable pressure due to increased numbers seeking help”.
In the 14 years that we have been running this project, the demand for our services has never been greater. Because of this, we are appealing to our regular supporters to keep up their parish food collections and to increase them if this is at all possible. We would also ask that parishes or schools not already involved get in touch with us to see if they are able to help us in any way.