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UK News

UK Christians called to support international students as numbers soar

by Heather Preston

Christians are being urged to welcome international students as the numbers studying at UK universities has risen to half a million a year. 

The most significant influx has come from China, which has seen a rise of 34 per cent in the last five years and now sends more students than any other country.

The 120,000 Chinese students are an important source of income for universities because international students pay fees two to three times higher than their UK counterparts.

Friends International, a Christian ministry for international students, is encouraging churches to take a lead in helping foreign students to settle into life in Britain.

Speaking to Premier, national director Alan Tower explains that UK universities can pose a number of cultural and social challenges to internationals for whom British customs are very unfamiliar.

"Social practices will be quite astounding to them, I think they will respond to genuine friendship, help with language or cultural issues and they would love to make contact with people," he said.

"We can get alongside groups working on campus or welcome them in our churches, maybe a meal in a host's house, offering to show people around will be very welcome. Mainly it'll just be a friendly face and a welcome into our homes."

Tower points out that the Christian community has a unique opportunity to show foreign students positive models of faith, friendship and community that shouldn't be missed. 

"Many of them are from countries where it's difficult to go and share the gospel as a Westerner. They are very often going to be very influential people when they get back home, they may be sponsored by their governments. So we have a great chance to share the gospel with people who will have a great impact in their countries back home. And we see that as a highly strategic opportunity."

Tower warns that although there are great opportunities for evangelism, Christians need to be considerate in how they communicate their faith.

"I think we need to be sensitive to cultural backgrounds. We want to pick concepts that appeal widely.

"We have to find cultural concepts that are appropriate to the part of the world where people are coming from."

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