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Refugee Resettlement in Dunedin
By Greg Hughson in All Sorts
the Christian response to refugeesREFUGEE RESETTLEMENT IN DUNEDIN
Back in April I helped organise and lead a Refugee Information night at Mornington Methodist Church,
organised by our Dunedin Churches Welcome Refugees Committee. Over 100 people attended, including members of our Dunedin Muslim community. The Choir sang, "Tell my people I love them" (Thanks Choir!) Also, I gave a brief message, based on a 2003 Uniting Church of Australia resource (see below) and we heard an excellent talk from Mouhannad Taha. Mouhanned, a Lawyer, came to Dunedin from Damascus in Syria with his family a few years ago. He has recently been admitted as a Barrister and Solicitor of the NZ High Court and is working for Jenny Beck Law here in Dunedin. A wonderful man, who through his faithfulness and character illustrates how people from other lands can bring great blessings to our community. Mouhannad has become a key person in Dunedin, assisting with the first group of former refugees from Syria settling here. The second group of refugees arrive in Dunedin on June 17th.
Two passages from the Uniting Church Justice statement (2003):
"There is no question about the Christian response to asylum seekers and refugees. The Church is called to be a place of welcome. As faithful disciples we are to provide care and comfort to those who come to this land as strangers, seeking safety. Christians are called to act with compassion, grace, and generosity, and all that we do must be a reflection of God's love for the world. Every human being is made in God's image and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of where they came from and how they arrived. Asylum seekers are our neighbours and we can do no less than the Samaritan as he went out of his way to care for his Jewish neighbour. We can do no less than offer the love of God and the compassion of Christ to everyone we meet, but especially to the stranger, the exile, the poor
and the oppressed. In God's love we shall all find freedom and peace and in the face of a stranger we shall see the face of Christ."
"God is identified as the God who cares for the exiled and the stranger. God brings justice to the oppressed and calls on the people of faith to care for the strangers in their midst as they care for each other. Refugees are identified in the Bible with widows and orphans as the most marginalised people, the most at risk, and the test of faithful obedience to God was how a community or individuals cared for these most vulnerable people. To oppress the weak and the powerless and the homeless was to risk the judgement of God.
Hospitality to the stranger therefore became one of the strongest moral forces in ancient Israel."
Last Sunday at our Combined Parish service, Siosifa preached a wonderful and challenging message about Christian faith which needs to be applied "beyond the fringe". Supporting former refugees in our community is a great example of what God is calling us to do together. Our Refugee Resettlement Committee, chaired by Father Gerard Aynsley, met again last Tuesday. We plan to set up a Refugee Resettlement Trust in Dunedin, to co-ordinate support for former refugees, going forward. Let me know if you can help with this, or want to be added to our list of Dunedin Church Volunteers, available to help former refugees here.
It was wonderful to read in the ODT last Tuesday about the first baby born to a former-refugee Syrian family here in Dunedin.
Updates on the work of our Dunedin Churches Welcome Refugees Committee can be found via our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/dunedinchurcheswelcomerefugees/
Christian World Service (CWS) has a special event in June, the 'Refugee Ration Challenge', to raise funds to support and empower refugees in camps in Jordan and Lebanon. For five days, ending on 20 June, World Refugee Day, volunteers are committed to living on the rations supplied to a person in the camps. Elizabeth Duke (from Dunedin Quakers) has volunteered, and invites support at her page: https://operationrefugee.everydayhero.com/nz/elizabeth
There is more information about the challenge and why it's needed at www.cwsoperationrefugee.nz. This is also the site through which others can volunteer.
Successful settlement, according to our NZ Government Refugee Resettlement Strategy, is achieved when people can participate fully in their new community. The Strategy has five goals: self-sufficiency - all working-age refugees are in paid work or are supported by a family member in paid work
participation - refugees actively participate in New Zealand life and have a strong sense of belonging here health and wellbeing - refugees and their families enjoy healthy, safe and independent lives
education - English language skills help refugees participate in education and daily life housing - refugees live in safe, secure, healthy and affordable homes without needing government housing assistance.
Let's do all we can to help meet these goals in Dunedin and elsewhere. Rev Greg Hughson, University Chaplain