Posted by Kaylee K on Thursday, February 22, 2018 Under: Response
With almost 2 months behind us in 2018, not much has changed for the situation of unaccompanied youth in Europe. It doesn't seem 2018 will be much different than 2017 as borders remain closed and governments seem more focused on ways to reject asylum claims rather than help people in desperate need. However, we do recognize that the call to help "the least of these" or "the orphan and the widow" or "the foreigner" is a Biblical one not a political one. This is why we continue to focus on the role of the church in responding to the needs of hundreds of thousands of young people who are looking for help, hope and a future as they arrived alone (i.e., without parents or other adult family members) on the shores of Europe. And we are encouraged as we meet monthly with folks from our network who are actively engaged in building relationships with these young people; demonstrating that they are NOT alone.
A few expressions of help and friendship demonstrated by our network members include:
In southern France an International church in our network is actively engaged in the local shelter working with the youth there and also visiting and building relationships with the young guys who are *stuck* in the shelters just across the border of Italy without permission to pass through. They also are working in their community to raise awareness of the need for parrainage (similar to foster care) for these youth and looking for apprenticeships that are critical if the youth are to have a solid foundation in France once they turn 18. They are also connecting with pastors from other churches to expand these efforts.
In Switzerland one of our network members actively engages the church and the Swiss Evangelical alliance in efforts to raise awareness to the needs and challenges the unaccompanied minors face. She has developed materials and interactive prayer activity to connect people to an issue they may otherwise not be very aware of.
In Finland we are seeing that while the government will not allow the churches (or any faith community) to visit refugees within the state-run facilities, there is an active interest among the refugees there to connect with churches and learn more. They are reporting an amazing number of Muslim people visiting their churches, becoming interested in knowing about the God that Christians follow and then deciding to commit their life to Jesus. Among these are many youth and some churches offer friendship and programs to engage with these youth as they seek a faith that will help them navigate their lives.
In Wales our friends have just received a grant for their programs for asylum-seeking youth. They are able to offer a weekly gathering, projects, outings to Rugby games, and field trips. All of these are just pieces of the pie that make up the relationships they have with these youth. Even before receiving the funding, they were getting to know these young people, speaking up on their behalf to their social workers when the care for them was falling short, organizing meetings with government officials to ensure that their voices were heard and joining them at their court dates as supporters and, when appropriate, witnesses on their behalf. A really forward-thinking approach they take is to involve the youth in projects that will give back to the community. Currently, the youth are turning old palettes into benches (see photo above) and then delivering them as gifts to area schools. This blesses the schools as well as reminds the boys of the value they have (it is important that we as humans are not always on the receiving end lest we lose sight of our own gifts and value).
In England we continue to work with our friend at Redcliffe College on a Bible study for asylum-seeking teens that features perspectives from other young refugees. He is also developing a module around working with vulnerable children that will be part of their Missiology MA.
This is just a sampling of the ways that we are seeing churches and individuals involved in caring for unaccompanied asylum-seeking youth in their communities. But it does show that situations vary by country and there are many creative approaches to helping and sharing hope. These are the stories that keep us encouraged and reinforce our commitment to supporting their efforts and expanding their reach!
In : Response
Tags: church unaccompanied minors friendship faith refugees europe