On 15 February each year, the Coptic Orthodox Church worldwide commemorates the lives of its contemporary martyrs on the anniversary…
Restore: supporting those seeking sanctuary.
As we look ahead to Christmas, there’s one part of the Christmas story that gets glossed over or edged out of many nativity plays. It’s a bit gory and not glitzy like the angels and of the wisemen’s gifts. But it’s an integral part and an element that resonates with our world today: the persecution of King Herod to eradicate any threat to his throne by killing baby boys. To escape that threat, Mary and Joseph fled with baby Jesus and became refugees in Egypt. Or should we label them ‘illegal migrants’, a phrase commonly misused today? If Mary, Joseph and Jesus had fled in a small boat and travelled across the Channel, how would we treat them? Would they be welcomed or marginalised?
Many of those in small boats are fleeing persecution, just like Jesus and his parents did. Government statistics show that 94% of Afghans, Syrians, Eritreans, Yemenis and Libyans who claim asylum are currently granted refugee status. That means that the Home Office believes they are at risk of persecution and should be given sanctuary to rebuild their lives in safety.
Restore, is a project of Birmingham Churches Together and our vision is for a society into which all refugees and asylum seekers are welcomed, valued and integrated. In a hostile environment, we aim to be countercultural and respond to Jesus’s call to welcome the stranger. Welcome is offered through one-to-one befriending and group social activities. Volunteer befrienders become a bridge between the host community and the new arrival, combat isolation and assist with conversational English – all helping with integration.
What the impact?
One befriendee wrote: “My befriender has introduced a cycling routine, which has helped me mentally and physically, to lessen my worries!”
Another wrote, “My befriender helped me learn more about Birmingham and helped me improve my English. Moreover, she became a real friend to me, and I knew if I needed anything, she will help me. She took me around Birmingham when I needed to take my mind off things.”
And a further befriendee wrote, “Restore paired me up with a befriender who actually changed my life. Having someone to talk to, was a big problem to me until I met my befriender who came and took that burden away. She is very kind-hearted, is always ready to listen to me and has helped me to regain my self-confidence.”
Comments from volunteers show the mutuality and the privilege of being involved in befriending relationships. “Being able to ‘walk’ with my befriendee in some of her pain, and talk things through, encouraging her in some of the challenges she faces, I believe lightens her burden a little to enable her to carry on. It is a privilege having such a role.”
Another wrote, “Befriending opened my eyes to see that people from different backgrounds can have more in common than meets the eye and has helped me be more empathetic and welcoming to others.”
And a further volunteer wrote, “Being a befriender helps me to enjoy the diversity of Birmingham, to see life from another perspective and to feel that I am playing a tiny part in making my city more welcoming.”
Would you like to offer welcome to refugees in 2024? We are always looking for new befriending volunteers. You can discover more at our next training course on Wednesdays 24 and 31 January and 7 February 2024. If you would like to donate to support our work and enable us to make a difference for more refugees, please click here.