The terms see, judge and act, are contained within the Liberation Theology model for reading the Bible. These key words help us to encounter, describe and analyze real situations in order to progress from words to action in choices that we consciously or unconsciously make.
Where there is hardship and vulnerability, individuals, groups and churches see; that means to encounter and not shut one’s eyes or shrink back from what sometimes can be difficult. By prompting us to open our eyes, describe reality in all its forms with honesty, can we take the next step and analyze and judge what we encounter and try to find words that describe the vulnerability we see. Finally, we can as an individual, group or church, take responsibility to act decisively and take action where people are harmed in particular situations, or through certain agreements and legislations.
Make space at your kitchen table
All of us have preconceived ideas and prejudices about other people – it can concern cleaning, food, tone of conversation and hospitality. Not infrequently these prejudices prevent us from focusing on what we as people have in common rather than our differences. Look at your prejudices and find evidence that it makes it impossible to divide people into categories on the basis of where we are born, how old we are, or what gender or sexual orientation we have.
What kinds of people are included in my circle of friends? Do I associate with people who only make me feel good? Is it true that we easily become comfortable and create “friend clicks”? Not infrequently we are drawn to people we are comfortable with and who have uncomplicated life styles. We need to continually ask ourselves if we are afraid of uncomfortable encounters that demand more energy and involvement than we believe we have?
When was the last time I had a visit or visited myself a person in the process of seeking asylum? Are all those in my circle of friends born and brought up in the same country as myself? Are they from the same social and economic background?
Do I have prejudices against people from other social backgrounds that prevent me from seeing the world with compassion? How can I be aware of my prejudices and find a way to deal with them?
Greet someone who needs to hear “Welcome to Sweden”
Invite a person who is in the process of seeking asylum for a meal or coffee. Why not cook food together and discover new and common ingredients and life situations? Exchange mutual experiences of joy and sorrow, togetherness and being shut out.
The empty chair
An empty chair at your kitchen table can symbolize that you want to break with prejudices and preconceptions to make room for new friends in your life. Take a photo of the empty chair and put it on your Facebook page or blog, maybe together with the caption ”I will make space at my kitchen table!”
Make space in your church
In our churches there are people who are more used to singing, ”How great thou art” in another language than Swedish. These are people who have found or who desire to find Christian fellowship in Sweden where they can be themselves, meet other people and worship God. Taking part in a church fellowship can be crucial for the integration of immigrants in Sweden.
Encourage your church to make an analysis of its local community that focuses on refugees and immigrants where, among other things, you can find out how many quota refugees the municipality accepts every year. Allow the analysis to influence the church’s budget and priorities. You will usually find people in your church’s neighborhood who are in the process of applying for asylum. Is their a refugee centre in the vicinity? Is your church represented at meetings the municipality holds for new refugees and immigrants? Are there immigrant churches in your local area? Is there any cooperation with them? Do other religions have meeting places nearby that the church has contact with?
Make a review of the suitability of language used in your church services and activities. It is all too easy to use words and terms that are not explained properly or care is not taken when translating. Remember that there are people who do not have Swedish as their mother tongue so that their understanding of a church service can be greatly limited if the language used is too complicated. Your church service can sometimes include Bible readings in different languages and include songs from other countries and languages.
Ask the church members regularly if they have understood the written invitation to the service and if they have understood certain parts of the service. Is the invitation clear even for people who do not have Swedish as their mother tongue? Remember that written information is often more difficult for people who come from cultures where verbal communication is more common.
Pay particular attention to the language used in announcements and invitations. Consider a person new in Sweden, who maybe has many experiences of being excluded in the society he/she has left behind, goes past a sign with the text The Swedish Church/Swedish Mission Church/Swedish Alliance Mission in Knäckebröhult. Is it possible that the person thinks that this fellowship is only for people born in Sweden? Could it be an idea to translate the church information folder to English or another language?
Read about the MIRACLE project that has developed methods to help churches see immigrants as resources and to enable their involvement in a church lead on to greater integration in society. MIRACLE stands for: ”Models of Integration through Religion, Activation, Cultural Learning and Exchange”. The Church of Sweden (the Lutheran Church in Sweden) is a partner of the European MIRACLE project, run by the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe. The project has worked with identifying the kind of changes churches need to undergo in order to become open and welcoming for new immigrants. The project has developed materials with interactive exercises that help the church to discuss questions such as, “What is an open church?”, “What kind of church structures allow or hinder active participation?” and “How can we overcome prejudice and lack of contact between people with Swedish and other ethnic backgrounds in the church?” It is generally known that immigrants are usually drawn to a church that is similar to the church in their homeland although their first impression and how much they feel welcome is the main basis for their participation.
Celebrate a church service with a focus on migration and refugees
Invite your municipality’s Refugee Officer to share about the local policy for refugees at a church service followed by an open forum. Ideas about prayers, hymns, Bible readings and symbolic practices that can be included in a service are found in the “Churches’ Global Week for Justice’s inspiration material”.
Organise an ecumenical event during the Churches’ Global Week for Justice together with churches in another denomination than your own. Make this an opportunity for Swedish and other ethnic based churches to meet together as well as encouraging interaction between people with Swedish or other ethnic backgrounds.
Take up an offering for some kind of work related to refugees, for example, refugee camps located in various parts of the world. Contact us for information!
Welcome new arrivals to your church
Ask active members of your church who come from another country about ways that could make integration easier. Many churches have very good experiences of, for example, organizing a language café that provides help with homework for children and teenagers.
Move out of the church building
Set up a coffee stand outside the church or in the local shopping centre and invite people to the church fellowship by chatting with them and giving out information folders.
Attend the meetings arranged by your municipality for newly arrived immigrants and invite them to participate in your church.
Share with municipality personnel how you are already working with integration and suggest that the church can contribute to the municipality’s integration efforts in your local area.
Share about your successful work
Many churches and individuals have contributed to helping immigrants integrate for many years but have kept quiet about it. Share everything good you are doing! Invite your local newspaper to write about how your church wants to contribute to the integration of immigrants.
Invite a MIRACLE resource person to churches
In Sweden, 11 people have been trained in the MIRACLE methods. Invite one of them to the church and gain some ideas on how the church can be better at integration. On the last page of this document you’ll find a list of MIRACLE resource persons who would be willing to visit your church, time and accessibility permitting. You can also try to use the MIRACLE methods yourselves. Download the material from: http://www.ccme.be/areas-of-work/uniting-in-diversity/miracle
The empty chair
Let an empty chair symbolize that you want to welcome any who wish to join the church fellowship. Put out a chair with a sign in front of it saying, ”Here is space for you!” outside the church during the Churches’ Global Week for Justice. Or put an empty chair in the church cafe or at the front of the church during the week that would symbolize that the church is aware of and wants to make visible the fact that fellowship in a church contributes greatly to integration and it welcomes many who wish to take part.
Take a photo of the empty chair and put it on the church’s website or Facebook page with the caption, ”We will make space for you in our church!” Link the website to the Make Space! campaign: http://globalaveckan.se/kampanj Put pictures on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/globalaveckan
Links and files
Share with us the activities you will carry out during the Churches’ Global Week of Justice: http://globalaveckan.se/aktiviteter/tipsa-om-aktiviteter
You can download the MIRACLE Guide as a PDF file in Swedish and English on: http://www.ccme.be/areas-of-work/uniting-in-diversity/miracle/
On page 27 of the guide in Swedish are ”Ten recommendations to promote integration and participative processes in churches”. Of particular interest in the project are materials that describe various exercises written in Swedish.
Ideas for useful material to use in the church’s work for integration
”Där främlingskapet bryts kan en ny värld börja”, Arcus förlag 2010 (”Where alienation is broken, a new world begins”, Arcus Publishers 2010) with accompanying study material (Sensus 2010) http://www.svenskakyrkan.se/default.aspx?id=689949
”Paulus brev till svenskarna” (Sensus 2012) – ett metodmaterial (”Paul’s letter to Swedes” (Sensus 2012) – material on methods) http://www.sensus.se/Documents/Ledare/Nya%20studiematerial/M%c3%a4nskliga%20r%c3%a4ttigheter/Paulus_brev_Utskrift_120928.pdf
Make space in your municipality
Municipalities all over Sweden sign an agreement with the Swedish Migration Board as to how many quota refugees they can accept. Many municipalities also accept people who are in the process of seeking asylum. The quality of the municipality’s work for refugees is crucial for the settlement and integration of new arrivals in Sweden.
Find out how the reception of refugees is handled in your municipality. Make a survey as to how many quota refugees and people who have received residence permits after seeking asylum in Sweden that the municipality has agreed to accept this year in agreement with the Swedish Migration Board. Are there people seeking asylum living in your municipality? Does your municipality have an agreement with the Swedish Migration Board regarding accepting children seeking asylum who come to Sweden without their parents? Are there any refugees living underground in your municipality? Are there people from other countries that have come to work in your municipality? What is the quality of the service given by the municipality’s refugee office towards children without parents seeking asylum in Sweden and the municipality’s efforts to settle new arrivals?
Most likely your municipality has the possibility to accept more refugees if there is political will. It is not reasonable that people who have got their residency permit in Sweden after seeking asylum cannot begin their settlement process because there is a lack of available accommodation in the municipality. Find out the facts and how the issue is discussed.
Influence the municipality to increase the intake of refugees
Share your opinion with policy makers in the municipality that you feel that there is space for more refugees. Attend a meeting of the municipality council and pose questions about how the municipality’s refugee bureau is functioning, write a letter to the municipality council or submit a citizen’s motion to suggest an increase in the number of refugees the municipality can accept.
Become an active participant in the municipality’s efforts for integration
Share with the municipality about the church’s efforts for integration that is already going on and offer to become an active part of the municipality’s integration efforts. Many municipalities organize, for example, the possibility to be a volunteer as an integration supervisor. Make an application of your interest as an individual or group in this area. Maybe the churches can help with providing accommodation for new arrivals for a shorter or longer period? Many who have got their residency permit have to wait to be placed in a municipality as there is a lack of housing. There is the possibility for churches and organizations to work professionally as “Settlement Guides” and receive some remuneration for the service. Find out more and discuss the possibilities with the church and the municipality.
Be proactive in contact with the media
Write a letter to the readers’ column in your local newspaper and encourage your municipality to accept more refugees. Use the whole or part of the template that the Churches’ Global Week for Justice has produced (in Swedish). A photo of an empty chair besides your municipality building is appropriate to send to the newspaper.
Communicate the appeal on the Internet, for example in social media and in the response column to newspaper articles.
The empty chair
Let an empty chair stand in or outside the municipality building to symbolize that there is space for more refugees in your municipality and that your church will contribute to their integration. Take a photo of the empty chair and put it on the church’s website or Facebook page with the caption ”We will make space in our municipality!” Link the website to the Make Space campaign: http://globalaveckan.se/kampanj Put a photo onto our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/globalaveckan
Links and files
Share with us the activities you will carry out during the Churches’ Global Week for Justice: http://globalaveckan.se/aktiviteter/tipsa-om-aktiviteter
Find out statistics from the Swedish Migration Board and also from your municipality’s immigrant bureau: http://www.migrationsverket.se/info/601.html
Information on resettlement can be found from the Swedish Migration Board: http://www.migrationsverket.se/info/242.html
In the Swedish Migration Board’s prognosis for its programme and budget that was presented to the government on 2012-07-30, the number of asylum seekers was raised from 34,000 to 38,000 this year and from 33,000 to 41,000 next year. This means that the Swedish Migration Board and the municipalities need to strengthen their reception capacity. See the whole process on: http://www.migrationsverket.se/info/6054.html
Information on resettlement from the United Nation’s agency for refugees, UNHCR: http://www.unhcr.se/se/vad-vi-goer/haallbara-loesningar/vidarebosaettning.html
Make space in your country
2012 was no exception! People all around the world are forced to flee from war, unrest and oppression. The majority of refugees seek protection first in a neighboring country while waiting for the situation to improve in their home country making it possible for them to return. Many leave their family and friends through resettlement organized by the United Nations in a third country, for example Sweden.
Approximately 14,5 million people in the world are refugees according to the traditional definition: people who have left their homeland to escape persecution, armed conflict or violence. Added to these figures are a large number of rootless people who have no kind of international protection or aid. The majority stays within their own country’s borders. Almost two thirds of the world’s refugees come from the Middle East or Africa. Half of all refugees come from three countries: Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq. Other countries that contribute to the list are Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Yugoslavia, Angola, Croatia and Eritrea. (Source: UNHCR)
People who flee from their homes often find somewhere to stay in a nearby area – another region of their own country, or in a neighboring country. Then there is in theory, three alternatives – integration in the country or area the person has fled to, return to their country or home area if the situation has improved, or resettlement in a third country. Quite often neither integration nor returning is a viable option. To be resettled requires that the person is selected as a ”quota refugee” – a selection process carried out by UNHCR together with the countries who are willing to accept refugees. In 2010, 73,000 refugees were resettled, a very small number in relation to the actual need. Most of them go to the USA, Australia and Canada and approximately 1,800 people come annually to Sweden. Quota refugees do not need to seek asylum when they arrive in Sweden as their application is approved beforehand. The largest numbers of refugees within UNHCR’s mandate remain unfortunately in refugee camps for many years without the possibility for integration, resettlement or returning to their own country. (Source: “Guidelines for issues concerning refugees, migration and integration for those who work in the Church of Sweden” (”Vägledning i flykting-, migrations- och integrationsfrågor för dig som arbetar i en församling i Svenska kyrkan”)).
In 2011, a total of 5,000 quota refugees were accepted by Europe as quota refugees. Sweden is among the countries who accept the most quota refugees together with Holland and England. 1,900 quota refugees gained permanent residency in Sweden during 2011. The quota of refugees for 2012 is the same as for 2011. A total number of 12,726 people were granted permanent residency on the basis of their refugee status during 2011. This figure does not only include quota refugees but also people granted permanent residency after seeking asylum in Sweden (Source: The Swedish Migration Board).
The ecumenical agency, the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME) judges that it is possible and necessary to increase the number of quota refugees in Europe to at least 20,000 people per year from 2020 onwards. CCME considers that Europe has sufficient space to accept more quota refugees. Although it seems to be a while before 2020, it is appropriate to take action right now for long-term political decisions that can make it possible for people trapped in the refugee camps of the world to have a future. This is particularly important as many European countries do not have a tradition of accepting refugees. CCME therefore encourages the governments of European countries and even international European agreements, to decide to increase the number of quota refugees they will accept.
People who have managed to make their own arrangements (often through refugee smugglers or by obtaining a visitors visa) to another country, for example Sweden, in order to gain protection from persecution and seek refugee status, are called asylum seekers. The right to seek asylum is found in article 14 of the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights. It is important that Sweden and European countries accept both quota refugees and asylum seekers! The one should not rule out the other. As the journey to Europe to seek asylum in many cases is dangerous and demands paying large sums of money to people smugglers, it is essential that more people have the opportunity to come to Europe as quota refugees! It is safer and comprises greater solidarity to take collective responsibility for the world’s refugees and to a large degree, release the poorer countries who are burdened with the most refugees.
Contact your EU parliamentarian and encourage him/her to lobby that Europe will accept more quota refugees. Share about CCME’s appeal that European countries should increase the number of quota refugees by 2020 to at least 20,000 persons per year. For Sweden this means increasing the number from 1,900 (2011 and 2012) to at least 2,500 persons.
Does your church have a partner or sister church in a European country? Write a letter to them and share about the campaign Make Space! and CCME’s appeal. Encourage your partner church to influence its country’s government to increase the number of quota refugees it accepts.
Links and files
Press release on CCME’s appeal in English: http://www.ccme.be/fileadmin/filer/ccme/75_PRESS/2012/2012-04-02-CCME_PR_02042012_RR.pdf
Policy document from CCME in English: http://www.ccme.be/fileadmin/filer/ccme/20_Areas_of_Work/01_Refugee_Protection/2012-03-30-20_00_places_policy_final.pdf
MIRACLE resource persons 2012
”Models of Integration through Religion, Activation, Cultural Learning and Exchange”
Jonathan Alexander, församlingspedagog i Skärholmens församling (Stockholm)
e-post firstname.lastname@example.org, telefon 08-603 96 48 eller mobil 073-663 06 81
Lena Blom, referensperson för migrations- och integrationsfrågor, Göteborg
e-post email@example.com, mobil 070-589 92 25
Christina Byström, informatör i Bergsjöns församling (Göteborg) och i storstadsnätverket i Svenska kyrkan
e-post firstname.lastname@example.org, telefon 031-731 82 34, mobil 070-714 00 14
Henrik Frykberg, stiftsadjunkt för religionsdialog och integrationsfrågor, Göteborgs stift
e-post email@example.com, telefon 031-771 30 17
Giselle Martine Hedman, diakon i Bäckbykyrkan, Västerås kyrkliga samfällighet
e-post firstname.lastname@example.org, telefon 021-404567, mobil 073-988 31 13
Kristina Hellqvist, handläggare för flykting- och integrationsfrågor, Svenska kyrkans kansli, Uppsala
e-post email@example.com, telefon 018-16 95 86, mobil 070-609 83 69
Micah Kissi, kyrkvärd i Skärholmens församling (Stockholm)
Kjerstin Petrelius Allard, kyrkoherde i Skäggetorps församling (Linköping)
e-post firstname.lastname@example.org, telefon 013-20 50 92
Daniel Uddling, integrations- och flyktingsamordnare, Caroli församling/ Kyrkornas flyktingrådgivning i Borås
e-post email@example.com, telefon 033-17 94 47, mobil 070 – 621 55 77