Why Christians need to help those who come to our countries for protection
Imagine yourself at home. Life is good. Your family is around you. You have plenty of friends, and are just enjoying the peace and quiet of the day.
Now imagine the peace is broken. You hear loud banging noises. There are people coming for you. They are yelling. You feel the adrenaline pumping as you try to work out what to do. There is chaos, as people scream and run in all different directions. You know your life is in danger. You need to escape. Where will you run to? Who will protect you? You gather what you can and flee. You are now a refugee.
What is a refugee?
A refugee is a person who has been forced to leave his or her home and seek refuge elsewhere. Usually, refugees have been forced to leave their countries because they have been persecuted. Rarely do refugees have the chance to make plans for their departure: to pack their belongings, to say farewell to their friends and families. Some refugees have to flee with no notice, taking with them only the clothes on their backs. Others have to keep their plans a secret from all around them in case they are discovered.
Refugees often have little idea about where they are going. They are running away, but they don't know where they are running to. Those who come to Australia often have limited understanding about our country and the nature of society here. They have had no opportunity to prepare themselves physically or psychologically for their new life.
Many refugees have also spent years, for some up to 15 years, in refugee camps that provide limited protection. For some refugees, particularly children, the refugee camp environment is the only one they have ever known.
Issues facing refugees
If it was you that was on the run, and you ended up in a country where you didn't know the language, and didn't understand the customs, what issues do you think you might face?
As a refugee, you will need to try and find income support, housing, employment, education, and health care. If you have been separated from your loved ones, you will no doubt want to be reunited with your family as well. Refugees often have to deal with other issues to, including
- being able to feel safe and secure;
- restoring a sense of self worth & dignity;
- regaining a sense of control over your life;
- resolving guilt & processing grief about the loss of self and country.
Helping refugees feel safe & settled
Settlement is a two-way process: while refugees learn to adapt to their new home, we as a community need to help them feel welcomed. Developing links between newly arrived refugees and the community is one of the keys to successful settlement.
If you are a refugee and a teenager, it means you have left all your friends behind. It will take a long time to find new friends, and feel like you are part of the community. As Christians, particularly those involved in local churches and youth groups, we can definitely play a role in welcoming refugees into our communities, and reaching out to them with the love of Christ.
What can you do to help?
This month, ANGLICARE is launching their 'Light up the Street' campaign. The object of the campaign is to raise awareness of the millions of young people around the world (including in Australia) who are refugees and migrants, and who need our help.
For the many refugee young people in Sydney, life can be tough. ANGLICARE's 'Migrant and Refugee team' works with these young people to give them hope and to help them rebuild their lives here in Australia.
‘Light Up The Street’ is asking you and your youth group to get involved in reaching out and loving refugees and migrants.
If you're interested in being a part of 'Light Up The Street', follow this link for more information, and start chatting to your friends and youth group leaders about getting involved.