Refugee Week has come to an end, but the challenge of refugees, and the challenges faced by refugees, continue around the world. The UNHCR’s 2018 Global Trends report released this week shows that the number of refugees and people seeking asylum increased by 1 million during 2018 to 29.4 million; 25.9 million of who have fled to neighbouring countries and 3.5 million who are seeking asylum in industrialised countries.
And the numbers of refugees and asylum seekers are anticipated to continue increasing because so few refugees are, in the global political environment, able to find effective solutions for their displacement. There are also those who will have to flee in the future because of rising sea levels, rising temperatures and unpredictable weather patterns. After the 9am service last week, Keith Blackburn also mentioned to me that the current refugee crisis (90% of current refugees are fleeing from conflict) can also be traced back to climate change; that the conflict in the Middle East is a geopolitical struggle for land and water.
So, how are we to respond? As I suggested last week I think the church has to keep doing what it is doing.
Secondly, welcoming. Fewer and fewer refugees are now able to find solutions for their displacement. According to the Refugee Council of Australia, the number of refugees resettled globally in 2018 was 94,400, the lowest number for six years, less than half the 189,000 refugees resettled in 2016. One of the contributing factors is the political attitudes government like Australia have taken, scapegoating refugees rather than working towards constructive alternatives for those who cannot find protection. Australia has taken in 12,700 refugees in the past year, but according to Refugee Council chief executive Paul Power this, “was far too modest given Australia’s capacity and global needs.”
Thirdly, giving. The vast proportion of refugees stay in neighbouring countries, but these countries need help to help them. Sadly, as a country we are also giving less and less to countries in need, as individuals and as a nation.
Fourthly, living more for others. If our lifestyles and levels of consumption are contributing factors as well as part of the reason we struggle with praying and welcoming and giving we need to challenge ourselves in this area. We need to resource and educate ourselves and encourage each other to live in ways that share this good and wonderful earth that we have been given.
Later in the year we will be exploring a series of sermons on this theme under the heading ‘Consumed’ and as part of that the catalyst group would like to hold a monthly lunch – on a chosen theme – where we can share ideas for living well and encourage each other in the implementation. If you are interested, please speak to Paul Falconer or to myself.