Christian World Service asks churches to remember refugees on Refugee Sunday. CWS has prepared resources for Refugee Sunday on 21 June in the Methodist and Presbyterian calendar and 5 July in the Anglican tradition. John Bluck has written a reflection: “Their only Security is Us”.
Record numbers of refugees are a sign of deep seated tensions in many parts of the world. Refugees are driven by desperation, fear and economic deprivation.
The refugee has a special place in the Judeo-Christian tradition. For example Jesus directed his followers to welcome the stranger (Matthew 25:35). New Zealand churches have played a significant role in resettling refugees in New Zealand especially through the then National Council of Churches.
“The numbers may be overwhelming, but we can make sure many more families have the food, shelter, medical care and education they need,” says Pauline McKay National Director.
The resources feature the story of young Syrians determined not to let war stop their education. Last month 136 of them returned to Syria to sit their Brevet and Baccalaureate exams thanks to CWS partner the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees who have expanded their programme to assist refugees from Syria. DSPR arranged tuition, the necessary papers, transport, accommodation and supervision for these dedicated students. They are some of the very few refugees who will be allowed to return to Lebanon, a country where one in five people are refugees.
The number of people who have fled Syria is equivalent to New Zealand’s total population. The UN reports 4.4 million Syrians have found refuge in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
The most recent statistics from the United Nations report there were 51.2 million displaced people in 2013, the highest number since World War II.
“People are prepared to take dangerous voyages to escape war, persecution and misery. Governments have a moral and a legal duty to rescue them. The international community needs to put more resources into resolving conflicts and end the oppression and poverty that are the drivers of these expeditions,” she says.
New Zealand as a signatory to the United Nations Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees and a member of the United Nations Security Council. In this position it has a responsibility to protect refugees and to promote renewed efforts to broker peace in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Burundi and other countries that are the source of refugees.
CWS supports calls to increase the annual quota of 750 refugees and asks all parties to increase funds for humanitarian relief.
17 June 2015