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Sunday, 20 June 2010

20 June: World Refugee Day

June 20 is designated each year by the United Nations as World Refugee Day, set aside to lift up the concerns of people around the world who have been displaced by war, violence and persecution. This year the UN has focused on commemorating those who have died on their way to seeking safety.

Only a small minority of the world's refugees find protection in Europe: 80% are hosted in the developing nations of Africa and Asia. Nevertheless, access to asylum procedures in EU countries is becoming increasingly difficult. Given the global refugee crisis, Doris Peschke, the General Secretary of the Churches Commission for Migrants in Europe, has said that. “European countries can and have to do more to provide protection to refugees. In addition to assisting the poorer countries to provide protection, food, shelter and water, more European countries need to participate in and establish regular programmes to resettle refugees to European countries. The cooperation between UNHCR, governments and civil society organisations in these programmes would allow for much higher resettlement number than we currently see in Europe”.

People fleeing danger or poverty take huge risks to reach our shores. We may be familiar with pictures in the media of small boats arriving in Spain, Gibraltar, Malta, Italy and Greece, dangerously overcrowded with people seeking asylum, many of them suffering badly from exposure. Since 1993, one conservative estimate is that more than 13.000 persons have died on their way to Europe.

Our diocese is a jurisdiction of migrants! Therefore we are particularly aware of the vocation of Christians to open the door to foreigners amongst us: “I was a stranger and you invited me in.” (St Matthew 25.35 ). Let us make regular intercession in our congregations for those who are seeking protection in our countries from persecution, injustice and threats to their lives, in their own. Let us not forget those who have died on their journey to find a dignified life in our continent. Let us explore further ways we can work with our partner churches in the countries where we live, in their advocacy for more fair and effective asylum procedures.

A Prayer for Refugees and Migrants
Blessed are you, God of all nations.You bless our countries richly with gifts of the earth and with people created in your image. Grant that we will be stewards and peacemakers who live as your children.
Blessed are you, Lord Jesus Christ.You crossed every border between divinity and humanity to make your home with us. Help us to welcome you in refugees, migrants and all newcomers to our nations.
Blessed are you, Holy Spirit. You work in the hearts of all to bring about harmony and goodwill. Strengthen us in human solidarity and in hope.
All-loving God, grant us vision to recognize your presence in our midst, especially in the stranger among us. Give us courage to open the door to our neighbours and grace to build a kingdom community. Amen.

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