David Bradwell is the Co-ordinator of Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees. He is a member of the Church of Scotland, and here he writes a personal reflection in anticipation of International Refugee Day on 20 June 2020:
One of the lectionary readings for last Sunday, 14 June, was the story of Abraham near the Oaks of Mamre (Genesis 18: 1-15).
We read how Abraham welcomed God, disguised as three strangers. Abraham welcomed them with humility and kindness, offering them water, food and a place to rest.
The offering of sanctuary and hospitality to all is important to Christians. It is because we see every human life as being made in God’s image, and it is because Jesus Christ told his followers that when they welcome a stranger, it is as if they were welcoming Jesus himself. The story of Abraham reminds us that giving hospitality can be a blessing to those who offer it: Abraham and Sarah are promised a son, even though they were both old.
This coming Sunday, 21 June, is Sanctuary Sunday, where churches across Britain and Ireland are encouraged to think, act and pray in solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers. It falls on the Sunday closest to the United Nations International Day for Refugees (20 June) and during the Refugee Festival Scotland.
There will be particular challenges for refugees during the covid19 pandemic. Keeping in touch with friends, family and community connections is dependent on internet access. Language tuition or other training might have stopped or changed. Legal advice or getting health needs addressed has become more difficult. Public health messages printed in English may not be fully understood, and getting translations to the right people is hard. In international emergency situations, people are living in cramped conditions with little health care provision or ability to wash hands or keep physical distance – people living in situations of crisis may be at higher risk of infection.
Remember them this Sanctuary Sunday, and ask what can we do as a Church to offer hospitality and welcome to strangers who are thirsty, hungry and in need of protection.
A Prayer for Sanctuary Sunday:
God of family, we bring before you the parents who are weeping and lamenting, who are waiting for their children, whose trace is lost in the sea, in the desert, on railway tracks, in shipping containers and uncertainty: men, women and children who had escaped from the war zones, the famine and poverty of this world, with the hope for a better, safer life.
God of life, we bring before you our lament for the dead, stranded at the borders of safety, who died fleeing through deserts, over mountains and seas. We call to you and join in the cry of all those who sought justice and a better life for themselves and their children and perished in the process.
God of justice, we bring before you political leaders, advisers and decision-makers who hold the fate of others in their hands. Make them aware of the causes of migration and flight. Keep their consciences alive so that refugees are offered protection and dignity. Let them agree rules of residence that are based on human rights and guided by solidarity compassion.
God of peace, give us the strength to be witnesses of the suffering of the world and fill us with the fire of your spirit to renew our efforts to serve those in need and give us the grace to welcome, learn and share our lives with people who come to live in our communities.