Friendship and concern in a world increasingly fractured by division and discord

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A guest post by David Bradwell of Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees.

The project I work on, Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees, was set up by the Church of Scotland last November to provide some co-ordination for the response of local and national faith communities to issues relating particularly to asylum and refugee protection.

Offering hospitality to strangers is a common requirement of many different faith traditions.  All religions teach a form of the Golden Rule (treat others as you would wish to be treated) and that there is an inherent value and dignity to every human being – and that our common humanity transcends national, racial, cultural or linguistic barriers.

We are a collaboration involving the Church of Scotland, Catholics, Episcopalians, Methodists, Quakers and members from the United Reformed Church, United Free Church and the Salvation Army.  Around the table are also Muslim, Jewish and Interfaith groups.   By working across our religious barriers, we hope to be a positive story of friendship and concern for the common good in a world increasingly fractured by division and discord.

Our project commenced in November 2015, partly as a response to growing public awareness and concern about how people seeking sanctuary were being treated, as well as building on the experience of many faith groups and individual members in Scotland over many years of living and working alongside refugees and asylum seekers.

Over the past few months I have talked with local churches about what they can do to offer welcome and support for integration for Syrian people arriving in their local area.  There has been advocacy with the Home Office to seek reform of the asylum system.  There are campaigns to influence the tenor of media and political debate.  There is encouragement for people to raise and send funds to support relief and development work with refugees, at home and abroad.  There are questions which people belonging to faith communities, or who would look to a religious tradition for guidance to reflect on in the light of contemporary circumstances.  We have put on events and are seeking to build partnerships with others who seek to work in solidarity with refugees, about accompaniment and seeking to uphold human dignity.

The ramifications of a Brexit decision on people crossing borders are hard to discern; it is complicated from where I live by the fact that Scotland voted overwhelmingly for Remain.  I fear that much of the next few months and years will see all attention on the mechanics of constitutional, legal and economic changes, with regard to the UK and the EU, and with Scotland and the UK.  During this time there is a risk that we become insular and inward-looking, more concerned about our own status and well-being and neglecting the wider world.   Civil society has a role to play to ensure that decision-makers and shapers remain committed to upholding human rights and preserving human dignity wherever possible.



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