New refugee integration and worship resources launched

Two new sets of worship materials and educational tools on the theme of refugee integration, which have been created in partnership with Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees, have launched this week for churches, individuals and community groups to use.

Syrian dancing at a community ceilidh in Skye.
Syrian dancing at a community ceilidh in Skye.

Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees (SFAR) is a multi-faith partnership project hosted by the Church of Scotland, which seeks to co-ordinate and promote action by faith communities in Scotland to support asylum seekers and refugees.

The Scottish Refugee Council's three ‘New Scots Integration: Rights & Communities' toolkits, as well as the ‘God With Us' worship booklet created by Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees in ecumenical partnership with Churches Together In Britain And Ireland (CTBI), both launched this week.

SFAR was involved in the production of the Scottish Refugee Council's third toolkit – ‘Tools to Support Community Integration' – and wrote ‘New Scots Holidays: A Handbook for Setting Up a Holiday Hosting Scheme', both as part of the New Scots Integration Programme which was funded by the EU.

‘Welcoming the stranger'

Meeting some holiday guests in a church in Aberdeenshire to evaluate the project
Sabine Chalmers, co-ordinator for Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees, meets with holiday guests in a church in Aberdeenshire to evaluate the New Scots Holidays project.

Sabine Chalmers, who began her role as the new co-ordinator of SFAR this month, celebrates this important milestone as both projects come to fruition.

"Faith communities have always played an important role in offering sanctuary and living out their calling of welcoming the stranger," Sabine said.

"Over the years I have witnessed local churches go above and beyond in offering sanctuary by opening their homes to refugees, putting on community meals, investing in friendships and standing up for what is right and just.

"Through the New Scots Integration Programme, SFAR was able to pilot projects supporting refugee integration with local churches.

"One of these was New Scots Holidays, a unique hosting project where congregations extended hospitality to Syrian refugees from another part of Scotland and welcomed them to their homes for a short break. It was an incredibly enriching experience for all, and so it has been really important to capture our learning and experience over these last two years and make it available for all to use."

"Making these toolkits widely available means more churches and community groups can be equipped to welcome refugees and support their integration process," Sabine adds.

"The New Scots Holidays toolkit, for instance, walks you through a step by step process of how you might go about hosting refugees in your own homes and community.

"I remember one Syrian man, who was hosted by a local church family for a short break, telling me that he had never been made to feel so loved in his entire life. Enabling these encounters has been incredibly rewarding and I look forward to continuing this work in my new role."

Scottish Refugee Council and SFAR toolkit and handbook

Introducing the new toolkit and handbook produced by SFAR, Gary Christie, Head of Policy, Communications & Communities, for the Scottish Refugee Council, said:

"Faith communities play a vital and important role in supporting refugees to build new lives in Scotland. Over the last two years, the Scottish Refugee Council has been delighted to work side-by-side with SFAR, led by the Church of Scotland, to build welcoming communities right across Scotland.

"We know that public attitudes towards refugees impact on people's ability to integrate, so the Church of Scotland's successfully evidenced work to inform faith congregations about New Scots has been essential.

"Building social connections lies at the heart of refugee integration. SFAR's innovative trialling of a holiday hosting programme has shown how strong connections can be positively built beyond communities in which New Scots live. It is an exemplar that I hope not only continues in Scotland but is adopted across Europe."

The ambitious New Scots Integration Programme has involved nearly 40 staff from across the Scottish Refugee Council, Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees, the Bridges Programmes, and the Workers' Educational Association.

Throughout 2018-2020, the programme directly supported 1,190 New Scots to achieve their ambitions for work, education and community life, as well as helping 189 organisations across Scotland to build their capacity to welcome and support the integration of New Scots.

God With Us worship resource

The new God With Us worship resource, created in partnership with Churches Together In Britain and Ireland, has also been made available on our website to download free of charge, or you can request a printed copy to be sent out to you.

Within the booklet you will find Bible studies, prayers, liturgies, stories, poems and discussion ideas on the topic of sanctuary, for various group settings, to support and encourage you to pray for but, even more importantly, with others.

Rev Anne Ross, who has been spearheading God With Us for the Church of Scotland, said:

"God With Us is an ecumenical resource that encourages us to explore the Bible and our Christian faith through the lens of migration.

"In biblical times, just as today, people who have experienced displacement have much to say about our world and God. Creating the resource was an encouraging journey of working together with people in different countries and of different denominations, united through the faith in a God who migrated and promised to be with us.

"I hope this booklet offers material both for your personal and congregational journey with God and with each other."

To find out more about SFAR's refugee integration work, please get in touch with Sabine Chalmers, SFAR Co-ordinator.