- Created on Friday, 04 March 2016
With a tangle of wars in the Middle East and an escalating refugee crisis, people across the country have been stuffing black bags and filling boxes. They have given generously to the excellent work of the humanitarian relief agencies but somehow that hasn't been enough.
Whatever the cause and whatever the potential solution may be, the human impulse to respond to the distress seen on our screens has propelled people into action.
It has been striking how many groups from churches, Islamic centres and local organisations have got together to do their bit; hiring vans and heading off to Calais, flying to the Greek islands to help bring people ashore, volunteering along the migrant routes in the Balkans. Others have concentrated on supporting asylum seekers, refugees and migrants already in the UK and living locally.
The photo on the left shows Muslims and Christians in Preston about to set off for Calais in a convoy of vans (thanks to Nedeem Ashfaq of the Light Foundation for the picture).
At the same time, in spite of increased resources from the UK government, the international response remains disjointed as borders are closed, fences are built and the numbers in vast refugee camps continue to rise. Volunteer coordination is minimal.
Earlier today, Mary Honeyball MEP, the journalist Razia Iqbal and Women for Refugee Women's Rahela Sidiqi (pictured above) spoke at Europe House in London on "Double Jeopardy" - the plight of women refugees.
The Christian Muslim Forum hosted a Syrian breakfast on the issue of refugees and migrants last September and more recently held a workshop at the national Near Neighbours Conference in Leeds. We asked "What are we learning from the current crisis?". The workshop was packed with the expertise and experience of concerned and active people across the country. The historical, economic, geographic and political complexity was acknowledged.
Suggestions for joint action included:
- volunteer training
- providing support for integration
- challenging negative media stereotypes
- local people doing small local things well
- advocacy on safeguarding the vulnerable
- improving the religious literacy of local authorities
- combating fear and reiterating community refugee history
- supporting primary schools with high numbers of asylum seeker children
How can we work together and become more effective? Who are our partners? Could we be more smart and strategic in our approach?
The Forum is bringing together those who are interested in doing this, especially those from Christian and Muslim groups but including all who want to work together. At the very least we can share signposting and contacts so that people can co-operate more easily.
We are also bringing together faith-based organisations who are involved in this area of work.
The word picture below brings together our thoughts so far.