As the UK prepares to open its doors to refugees fleeing the Russian invasion in Ukraine, Christians are already leading the way with a number of schemes encouraging people to sponsor refugees.
Welcome Churches has set up a website in English, Ukrainian and Russian to help ensure Ukrainians are offered the best welcome by churches across the country. Ukrainians will have access to information such as accessing a GP, finding a school and how to connect with a local church community.
Sue Butler is Joint CEO of Welcome Churches and she’s been telling Premier more about it :
“There’s been a huge outpouring of support towards Ukrainians and there are thousands and thousands of people already pledging their interest and their intention to offer a home or a room in their house to a Ukrainian.
“It is a very new approach. I think, as a country, we've welcomed a lot of people over the last 12 months. We welcome people from Hong Kong, we’ve welcomed many Afghans. This is the third mass migration to the UK in the last 12 months. And I think the government has had to relook at how they house people. Many Afghans are still in hotels waiting for homes to go to and I think this is an attempt to do that a lot faster for Ukrainians and to really tap into the support from the public here in the UK. It will also be something that reflects what we're seeing going on in Poland and what's been very inspirational to us all.”
Sue says she hopes people who are unable to offer a spare room also get involved in the welcome :
“There are lots of ways of joining in as well, if you feel that you only have a spare room and it’s not for you. There will be other ways of joining in - it might be someone in your church is going to offer their own property and you can join in with that as well. You can be part of the welcome of a family that comes into your location and into your church community as well.
“It's going to be hugely challenging, it’s not going to be easy. I think that it's not just the people that are coming that are being vetted. I think we also will have to go through a process because the UK Government wants to keep everyone safe, both the guests and the people who are hosting.”
Although acknowledging that there will be challenges ahead, Sue Butler says offering hospitality is at the heart of the Christian message :
“It’s really a biblical mandate, part of who we are, as Christians and as the Christian church. I think it's a great opportunity for the church. We are really well set up for caring for people who are hurting and going through difficulties. We're good at getting together, we're good at eating meals together. We're good at having a task in front of us to care for people. So I'm hoping that many churches and people in churches will sign up to this scheme and having understood a bit more about what it is to come out of a war zone that they will be stepping forward and helping Ukrainians and perhaps helping many others in the future as well.”
You can find out more at www.welcomechurches.org