The world is in the middle of a refugee crisis. There are an estimated 4.8 million Syrian refugees who have been forced to leave their homes – and many more attempting to escape war or poverty elsewhere.

Vigil to remember the fifth anniversary of the start of the war
Vigil to remember the fifth anniversary of the start of the war

We have become accustomed to the images of refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean in precarious rafts. People are dying and there seems to be no end to the crisis.

In our own country there are a mix of responses, ranging from sympathy to outright hostility. Some fear that Europe will be overrun and our public services stretched, while others are frustrated that so little seems to have been done.

The solutions to the problem will include making peace, rebuilding Syria, and helping people in the camps – but we need to do our bit here too!

Refugees Welcome Call to Action in November 2015
Refugees Welcome Call to Action in November 2015

Most of the refugees are still in camps in the middle east, but conditions aren’t great and the UN has created a scheme which enables governments to relocate the more vulnerable families.

The British government has allocated some of its international aid budget to relocate Syrian refugees to this country. Milton Keynes Council has agreed to take twenty families – and CitizensMK is working to increase this to fifty.

MK Deanery supports the CitizensMK group, Refugees Welcome
MK Deanery supports the CitizensMK group, Refugees Welcome

In April we received our first two families in MK. They were housed in private accommodation (so didn’t take housing from local homeless people!) and the Refugees Welcome group organised a collection of goods to help equip the properties – remember, they come here with nothing!

A great partnership has been set up between the Council, the Red Cross and Refugees Welcome. We can’t solve the wider problem by ourselves, but we can make a big difference by welcoming a few families into our city!

Community Leaders meet the Council and the Red Cross
Community Leaders meet the Council and the Red Cross

There are lots of things that churches can do to help:

Pray: Pray for all refugees including those from Syria – and for the terrible situations that continue in so many parts of the world!

Speak up: Encourage positive attitudes to those who are arriving in our country. Prejudice against refugees is all around us – given particular focus thanks to the EU referendum and the anti-imigration agenda…

Get Connected: Register as a supporter on the Citizens MK web site. This way you will get regular updates and direct requests for help: http://www.citizensmk.org.uk/?page_id=576

Get involved: The next three families will be arriving soon and the appeal for household goods has already started. You can see a list of what is needed on the CitizensMK web site. We will be accepting items via the Bletchley fire station, but it should soon be possible for churches to raise money and contribute financially. I’ll keep you posted.

Volunteer: I’ll also be looking for volunteers to join a team working on one of the houses. We’ll need to clean and prepare the properties, and move items in. I’ll be asking for help as I move around the churches.

The more help we can provide with the houses, the more that can be done to help integrate the families and help the recover from their experiences.

In the meantime I want to thank everyone who has already contributed to this campaign. It has been a challenging issue but also wonderful to see our churches respond to human need in real and practical ways.

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