Since the beginning of the war, thousands of Ukrainians have come to Scotland seeking a safe and secure home. Churches and faith communities have an important role to play in welcoming Ukrainians and ensuring that they are supported within their communities.
Thanks to funding from Action of Churches Together in Scotland we were able to employ David Moodie as Churches Support Officer who has a dedicated role in assisting churches across Scotland in their responses. If you or your church are already supporting Ukrainians, or would like advice or help to begin work in your community, David would love to hear from you. Please get in touch for more information, advice, and support: David.Moodie@churchofscotland.org.uk.
Below you can find information, resources, and advice for churches and faith groups as they seek to have a positive impact. In all of your responses, please consider whether these could be extended to refugees and asylum seekers from across the world who are seeking to rebuild their lives in Scotland.
Understanding the Context
Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine around 14 million Ukrainian people have been displaced from their homes. Over 7 million have crossed borders in order to seek safety across Europe.
As of 07/02/23 there are over 23,000 Ukrainian displaced people living in Scotland. Families and individuals are being hosted in private homes, larger numbers are temporarily housed in hotels or on one of the two commissioned ships (MS Victoria in Edinburgh and MS Ambition is Glasgow), and some people have found their own accommodation. Ukrainians are now staying in every local authority across the country.
In March 2021, the UK Government established pathways for Ukrainians to come to the UK, including the ‘Ukraine Family Scheme’, which allowed Ukrainians to reunite with their family members already in the UK, as well as the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme which allowed individuals to sponsor Ukrainians and host them in their homes for a minimum of 6 months. In addition, the Scottish Government launched the ‘Super Sponsor Scheme’ which removes the need for Ukrainian applicants to be matched to a named individual before they are cleared to travel to the UK through the visa system, and the Scottish Government runs a centralised matching service.
Churches and faith groups have led the way in welcoming Ukrainians in their local communities. They have opened their buildings, donated resources, organised gatherings, trips and events and hosted a large number of displaced Ukrainians. What we have seen is faith communities putting their values of hospitality and neighbourly compassion into action. This has been incredibly encouraging and has led to the forming of many new friendships and community connections.
However, two-way integration is a long process and there remains much to be done. Ukrainians in Scotland have a range of practical, social, and spiritual needs which faith communities can play a role in addressing. Listed below are some of the things we can do to continue to respond to those needs and ensure Ukrainians have a warm welcome to Scotland.
What can churches do?
Churches with their long established ties in their community and pool of enthusiastic volunteers are perfectly placed to support refugees in their local areas. So far churches across Scotland have responded in unique and creative ways. What your church can offer will depend on the needs in your area and what resources you have available. For help exploring what your church can do, please contact David.
Here are some suggestions of what your church could do:
Churches can open a few times a week as a hub. Hubs can be a great place for Ukrainians to make connections, find community, and seek support. Inviting representatives from statutory organisations (DWP, housing authorities) or charities (Scottish Refugee Council, Shelter) can be a great way help Ukrainians access practical support.
Churches might also think about inviting hosts (and people thinking about hosting) and their guests to the Hub. Hosting brings with it may challenges and so places where hosts can connect with others and share their experiences are hugely valuable.
For an example of a hub in action have a look at what has been happening in East Renfrewshire.
One of the most consistent needs raised is being able to speak English. Where possible, ESOL language classes provide the best way for people to learn, however for many churches and volunteers the time and money commitments for this will be too high.
A more feasible option can be an informal language club where people can practice their skills. The key to success is having enough confident English speakers so that everyone has a chance to practice. Also, maybe consider opening the club up to refugees and asylum seekers from all countries, for whom practicing English is also important. Examples of Churches starting this work are Invergowrie Parish Church or St. Paul’s and St. George’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh.
Events for Families
A large percentage of the Ukrainians who have come to the Scotland are families. Consistently we have heard from Ukrainian parents that one of their priorities in coming to the UK has been to ensure their children have a normal and safe childhood. There is a need for fun events that are accessible for Ukrainian families. Events can be targeted, but why not think about inviting Ukrainian families along to your existing church events like BBQs, church lunches, coffee mornings etc.? Please contact David who can help you connect with Ukrainians in your area and think through appropriate ideas.
Making pre-existing groups accessible
Many of the services that churches already run are of use to Ukrainians as well, from Food banks, to Babies and Toddler Groups, to Coffee Mornings. These events can be made more accessible by the addition of flyers or signage in Ukrainian. For help accessing translation services please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Resources for Faith Groups
Information sheet for Ukrainians in Scotland
We have produced a brief information sheet for Ukrainians living in Scotland, in both English and Ukrainian. It includes information on key helplines, both of Scotland’s Ukrainian associations, and links to further information. Please feel free to print these out and display them in your church, food bank, or community project.
A Guide for Hosts
Before you consider sponsoring someone and hosting them in your home please read our guide on things you should consider before you make this decision.
The expert hosting network NACCOM advises that hosting works best when the right time, support and consideration has been given to facilitating a positive and safe hosting arrangement, particularly as many people in need of hosting may have experienced trauma, conflict or persecution.
If you are interested in supporting Ukrainian refugees through hosting, register your interest today on the Government’s Homes for Ukraine website which also enables you to sponsor under the Scottish Super Sponsor Scheme.
Children’s Channel in Ukrainian
Several UK TV companies have come together to create Sunflower TV, a YouTube channel that broadcasts British cartoons in the Ukrainian language. This can allow young Ukrainians to engage with the same media as their peers in a language they understand.
Scottish Refugee Council Ukraine Update
Scottish Refugee Council is one of the leading refugee organisations in Scotland. The have produced a number of resources, including ‘Your Rights in Scotland’ a document with essential information about the rights Ukrainians in Scotland hold.
SRC also produces a round-up email with updates about the situation of Ukrainians in Scotland and with links to useful resources. If your church would like to be included on this list, please email David.
The Gideons have been making every effort to ensure Ukrainians have access to the Bible in their own language. They have been distributing a limited amount of free copies of the New Testaments and Psalms in Ukrainian. Please contact David to enquire.
There remains a huge need for hosts across Scotland to offer places for Ukrainians. This includes for the many families in temporary accommodation (hotels/ships) but also for the families whose initial hosting arrangements have come to an end.
It is important to recognise that there have been problems with the systems put in place to manage the hosting. Many people put their names forward in the initial months of the crisis, only to be contacted late or never at all. This has been a deeply frustrating experience for those people and it shouldn’t be overlooked. Thankfully these issues are being addressed and new hosts are being accepted. Hosting remains an invaluable way to make a practical difference in the lives of individuals who have fled a terrible conflict.
We recognise that not everyone is in a position to host, but if you are interested please see our guide on things you should consider.
How to donate
A number of humanitarian aid initiatives have been established to deliver immediate and urgent support to people in Ukraine and refugees in the surrounding countries. We have listed a number of these below. This is not an exhaustive list, and you may choose to donate with an organisation you already have a relationship with.
The Reformed Church in Hungary, a partner church of the Church of Scotland, is mobilising support (Food, non-food, accommodation) through Reformed Church in Hungary Aid to refugees next to the border, in Budapest, and where possible also in the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine, where the Transcarpathian Reformed church has parishes, and in Slovakia and Romania. A description of the activities can be found at: https://reformatus.hu/english/news/reformed-community-proved-love/.
Your donations can be directed to the following account: (Please gift aid this if possible.)
Royal Bank of Scotland Church of Scotland No 1 Account
Account no 00134859
Sort code 83 06 08
Reference RCHA donation
Other international organisations you can support are:
- Christian Aid’s Crisis Appeal for the Ukraine (DEC Appeal)
- CCME’s Romanian member AIDRom has set up support structures for those coming into the Northern parts of Romania and provides food, non-food items and shelter. A short description and details of how to donate can be found here. https://www.aidrom.ro/?p=72405
- The Lutheran church In Poland and its Diakonia, who had already mobilised support for refugees stuck at the Polish-Belorussian border last year, calls for donations for their support for displaced Ukrainians
- Salam Lab is working on the ground in Poland supporting Ukrainians who are crossing the border: https://salamlab.pl/en/ukraine/
Advocating for Ukrainians
While churches can do many things to support Ukrainians in Scotland, the decisions of our Governments have a profound impact on the lives of Ukrainians.
The UK Government is responsible for decisions around visas and immigration. While we are grateful for the 192,600 visas that have been issued, these visas remain only temporary. It is important to campaign for the longer-term status of Ukrainians in the UK.
There are additional issues surrounding the controversial Nationality and Borders Act. The new Act states that an asylum seeker’s claim will be determined by their means of arrival rather than the merit of their application. The situation in Ukraine demonstrates exactly why this is fundamentally flawed; any Ukrainian who flees and makes their own way to the UK will be criminalised. Their asylum claim will be deemed ‘inadmissible’ under the new bill.
You can contact your local MP to urge the UK Government to offer comprehensive safety not just to Ukrainians but to all refugees.
The Scottish Government has taken on a major role as a sponsor through the Super Sponsor Scheme. 30,600 visas were issued under the scheme before closing and over 17,000 individuals have arrived. It is encouraging to see the Scottish Government offer safe passageway for so many people, however there are ongoing challenges. While housing people in hotels and on-board ships is acceptable as temporary accommodation, it is not a long-term solution. We would like to see a plan for how people are going to be resettled in the long term.
In addition, there can be discrepancies across local authorities. The availablity of key support, such as English classes and affordable public transport options, can vary depending on where people are living. We wish to see Ukrainians across Scotland able access to appropriate housing, education, and support wherever they live.
For any concerns, particularly in your area, please contact your local MSP.
Ways to Pray
Prayer is an important part of many faith traditions and a huge source of comfort and strength to people of faith. Below are some specific related to the situation in Ukrainian that are worth considering.
- Pray for the people of Ukraine. Pray for those who are fearful of their lives and livelihoods, who have lost loved ones, or through chaos have lost contact with their families. Pray for those who are making treacherous journeys because they have no choice, for those who and for those who are left behind. Pray for safety, comfort, endurance and peace.
- Pray for wisdom and generosity of the global community, governments and for national and international leaders who have power, influence and authority. Would their responses and commitments to supporting those most in need be generous, kind and compassionate.
- Pray for wisdom for International leaders as they seek to support Ukraine and respond to Russia’s aggression.
- Pray for the Russian people and for Russia’s leaders that they would pursue peace and justice for Ukraine and for Russia.
- Pray for receiving communities to be welcoming and sensitive to the needs of those they are caring for. Pray that all will be welcomed regardless of who they are and where they are from.
Prayer for Peace in Ukraine (Very Rev Dr Susan Brown)
O God, the refuge and strength of all,
You hold the people of Ukraine in the palm of your hand.
The name of each person there,
Is written on your heart.
In the darkness of invasion
And in the mire of political machinations,
Spread we pray, the light of hope and of justice
And of peace.
Encourage those who are frightened,
To find strength in you
And in those around them –
Near and far.
Help the worldwide family of nations
To respond in love
With outstretched hearts,
And with too, the wisdom needed
to effect a peace that lasts.
Save us we pray,
From not caring enough.
For your Son’s sake.
For more prayer and worship resources on the topic, check out our God With Us resource. It includes bible studies, prayers, liturgies, stories, poems and discussion ideas.