As a child in school I learned all about migration. It was described then as the annual movement of Wildebeests to new feeding grounds following the well-worn tracks of earlier generations. No one talked about migrating people, the draw of urbanisation or the need for places of refuge, not even in Modern Studies. In the last few weeks our news has explored, in some detail, the issues surrounding people in our world who are, in a variety ways, on the move.
Our Council, concerned for those fleeing persecution and war, asked our National Team to explore how we might help churches who are currently engaging with refugees. This week, churches currently engaged in ministries to refugees gathered in Easterhouse Baptist to share their experiences, learn from one another and begin to support one another. It is clear that refugees and asylum seekers are mostly being placed in the poorer areas of Scotland. In these areas, our churches are smaller and have less financial resources. This is where it is vital that we behave as an intentionally relational community, allowing churches who have no frontline engagement with refugees the opportunity to share in the ministry of other congregations.
Last week I attended the European Baptist Federation Council (EBF) which again spent time considering issues relating to the huge movement of people across Europe and the Middle East. I listened to Hungarian, Austrian, German, Italian, Swedish, Croatian and Lebanese Baptist leaders speak of new ministries growing by the day in their communities as they respond to the needs they see. A report is currently being compiled of all the work Baptists are doing in Europe in support of migrating people, and a new fund has been established to offer immediate support to the smaller Unions.
Our Council has decided that our Assembly offerings should be used in this area of need and will be split three ways this year. One third will be given to BMS World Mission to support existing work among refugees. A further third will be sent to EBF to support the new work all over Europe and the final third will be distributed among our own churches who are engaging with this growing issue.
I am encouraging local churches to have a special offering over the next month which delegates can bring with them to the Assembly in order that we might share in the resourcing of those on this new ministry frontline.
I also include links to a selection of resources you may find helpful in exploring these issue in your congregation.