Building a Welcoming Community

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How can we respond?

Christian love should be at the heart of all our relationships. However, we are sometimes diffident when facing people from another culture or unsure of how to communicate welcome appropriately and sensitively across cultures.

Our response should be motivated and guided by what the Bible says about relationships with incomers and people who are different from us. The welcome we give should be appropriate to the needs and resources in our own locality.

Celtic Blessing for Hospitality

I saw a stranger yestereen,
I put food in the eating place
Drink in the drinking place
Music in the listening place
And in the sacred name of the Triune
He blessed myself and my house
My cattle and my dear ones
As the lark said in her song ‘Often, often, often
Goes Christ in the stranger’s guise.’

Quoted in What the Bible says about the stranger by Kieran J O’Mahony OSA. The Churches’ Peace Education Programme, Irish Commission of Justice and Peace & Irish Council of Churches, Maynooth and Belfast, 1999.

Advising people from other countries who are encountering difficulties:

Churches, congregations, groups and individual Christians sometimes encounter people from other countries who are in crisis situations and have difficulty because many do not have access to the same entitlements as local people. Resident minority-ethnic people may also experience difficulties because of racist attitudes.

These situations often raise complex immigration issues. It is always best to ask an expert for advice in individual cases. (It is illegal to give immigration advice without a licence.)

EMBRACE has prepared a signposting document for responding to people in need. This document was prepared in 2014 and is being reviewed in response to changes in legislation and the groups which are able to provide advice and support. Advice Document: advice.

It is hoped that a revised advice document will be available shortly.

Past Projects

Migrant destitution
Migrant workers who lose their jobs, or whose contracts have ended, may end up on the streets, as most have no immediate right to full welfare benefits, may have been living in accommodation tied to their job, and have probably underestimated the local cost of living. With no means of support they can quickly become destitute. Some foreign nationals have no recourse to public funds and are not entitled to beds in most hostels if they become destitute, which can happen for a number of reasons.
See also BBC news item from Dec 2008 here

A practical response
In 2006, EMBRACE working alongside several Belfast churches and community organisations who work with homeless people, set up the On the Street project. This initiative raised awareness of migrant destitution and offered a positive response through the donation and distribution of clothing, bedding, toiletries and foodstuffs to those on the street and in hostels, both local and migrant people.

Get involved
Whilst the needs have continued, the capacity of EMBRACE to manage the project diminished and in Autumn 2014 the project was handed to Storehouse, a charity specialising in distributing donated goods to people in need. Matt Orme of Storehouse now co ordinates the collection and distribution of goods for vulnerable migrant people. If you wish to make a contribution contact Matt by email: matt@storehousebelfast.com



Biblical Response

Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
for by doing so some have entertained angels without knowing it.

Hebrews 13: 1–2

Biblical sources:

Who is my neighbour? Luke 10 25–37
How to treat a foreigner Leviticus 19 33–34
How foreigners can be a blessing The book of Ruth
Justice love and fellowship Micah 6: 8
Treating others as we treat the Lord Matthew 25: 31–46
The gift of hospitality Hebrews 13: 2
Breaking down barriers Ephesians 2: 11–22
For full texts see: http://www.biblegateway.com/

Public Policy

‘The social and economic benefits of immigration are clear and we are all acutely aware of the profound impact that immigration has had here. Immigrants have brought a new dynamism and many ideas from which we all benefit. However, it is up to us all – the Executive; Government Departments; Councils; Community Groups; and individual citizens to ensure that we are adequately prepared to welcome the arrival of newcomers.’

OFMDFM Junior Minister Jonathan Bell speaking at the NI Strategic Migration Partnership, October 2011