God is our refuge and strength: a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46.1)
Few of us will know what it feels like to have to flee our home under persecution or threat. Although some of us may, and this is the lived reality for so many in our world right now; just as it is the reality for many in our own city and county this winter.
As the weather turns colder, our thoughts turn especially to those who will spend days and nights outside on the streets of our city and those without the warmth and love of friends, family and their local community.
Last week, at the Oxford Citizens founding assembly, we heard first-hand how, among those threatened with poor quality housing or eviction, are people who came to our City seeking a place of refuge, after escaping violence, war, persecution and famine. And among those sleeping out are people who have been evicted from the very place that had become a sanctuary to them https://www.asylum-welcome.org/reflections-on-the-recent-protests/#
There are many wonderful and kind souls who have assisted others in need of accommodation, and incredible work is being done by local homelessness and other charities to tackle the threat of eviction or transfer to unsuitable accommodation which some of the most vulnerable members of our society face. Yet still the demand outstrips state provision and, as policies become ever more restrictive, our own City risks becoming a place of hostility rather than welcome for those who need a place of refuge, and who need help when they are in trouble.
One way in which we can each make a difference is to ensure we do all we can to extend the welcome of our own community to those who find themselves in need. If anywhere should be a place of sanctuary and safety, it is God’s house; and, with love and care, the hospitality of this place can reach far beyond our own walls. One of the ways we are putting our faith into action again this year is by making sure asylum seekers in two hotels in Oxfordshire know they are not forgotten at Christmas, by sharing gifts with them.
Tess writes: ‘We will supply cardboard boxes or rucksacks to be filled with presents suitable for the allocated recipient. It would help when buying gifts to consider the environment (although please don’t buy second hand items unless they are unused and in mint condition). Last year was wonderful as we managed to assemble over 50 boxes all of which brought great delight.’
If you would like to find out more about the partnership with Asylum Welcome and take part in the Christmas box/rucksack project please see Tess or Mary Lean for further info. 07767476043