The crisis of Syrian refugees has prompted a huge, even enormous, grass roots response - from petitions to rallies to humanitarian aid. It is a complex situation that I cannot claim to understand, but at the end pof the day these are desperate human beings seeking safety... we cannot just stand by cogitating, theologising, tutting or prevaricating.
Social media is chock full of grass roots responses all over the UK, and I happened to stumble across a spreadsheet of many here. I know that it is only time until the media circus moves on to the next tragedy, that there are no quick fixes or easy answers. Signing petitions is good, donating goods or money is great, praying is helpful - but there are longer term matters to consider.
Yesterday I was very challenged by a Baptist minister asking churches if they'd be willing to host up to five refugees whilst they went through the asylum process - housing them and providing their needs for an initial 12 month period. That's a real "put your money where your mouth is" challenge, and not one I could easily rise to (I'm honest if nothing else). They also offer some slightly more attainable options to be considered, which I've borrowed to share here...
1. asking local agencies what they need. L'Auberge Des Migrants, Medicins Du Monde are the two we met, but CalAid also does a great job of communicating facts. They are all on facebook. It is a human urge to need to do something when faced with tragedy, but it is important we do what is helpful and not cause further difficulties. It is also important not to make the Calais camp a tourist site.
2. collecting useful donations but looking for localised collection and distribution points who are working with local agencies to coordinate deliveries, so as not to overwhelm the small team of volunteers in Calais or cause disruption in the camp.
3. volunteer some time to go over and help in Calais or other refugee camps you can reach. You can liaise directly with agencies although I would consider organising a rota for Calais with those agencies if people want to offer dates.
4. volunteer in your local area to help lobby councils and local government and offer hospitality when policies change - https://secure.avaaz.org/en/uk_refugees_volunteers_faq/
5. donate money to grass roots agencies so they can buy what is needed
6. remember that the numbers in Calais represent a minuscule percentage of the millions who have fled Syria, so for every pound donated to Calais why not donate at least a pound to groups in Lebanon who have been hosting the vast majority with minimal resources for years. Haddath Baptist Church has a number of excellent projects supporting refugees and you can donate at www.hbcbeirut.org or support World Vision, or find a group in Greece etc.
(Original list, by Rev Juliet Kilpin)
I end with a prayer...
Loving God, as I go to bed tonight,
Help me not to feel so overwhelmed that I am rendered helpless
Not to be so naive as to succomb to romantic idealism
Not to be so cynical that I am deaf to the prophet's cry
Not to be so sensible that I cannot imagine an alternative
Not to be so selfish that I close my ears and heart
Not to be satisfied that I have done enough
Not to be disappointed with myself for what I cannot do
Loving God, in this complex situation, show us how we can truly be bringers of your Shalom