The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rt. Rev. Dr. Ian McNie, has called the Church to prayer over the Syrian refugee crisis and also issued some practical guidance to congregations on how they can respond, both now and in the days ahead.
Further to his public statement last week, when he called on Church members to ‘welcome the stranger, love our neighbour and open our arms to those who come to our shores’; in his letter to all ministers, Dr. McNie said that he recognises the complexity of the on going situation, but asks that the Church be seen to bring ‘its own unique, meaningful and powerful dimension of prayer to the fore’.
Dr McNie writes that ‘as a Church this is a responsibility stated in God’s Word that we cannot ignore if we are to remain true to our calling. God’s Word reminds us we are to:
1. Love our neighbour - our neighbours next door as well as our neighbours in our community, in our land and in our world.
2. Pray for the refugees who have lost family members, homes and possessions that they may know that their plight is not being ignored and that positive action is being taken to help.
3. Pray for those in authority, 1 Timothy 2:2, that they will seek the welfare and peace, not only of their own jurisdiction, but neighbouring communities and war-torn countries.
4. Pray also for specifically for the governments in London, Dublin and Belfast as they prepare to receive refugees into the UK and Ireland.
5. Pray that if our Churches have an opportunity to ‘welcome the stranger’, that they will not be behind the door in acting accordingly.’
In his letter the Moderator also recognises and appreciates the many timely and practical local responses that congregations have already been involved with. He also encourages Ministers to continue to respond to the immediate need of Syrian refugees arriving in Europe by supporting the Church’s development partners, Tear Fund and Christian Aid in particular:
• Tearfund: www.tearfund.org - donations that will support their focus on Syria itself, Lebanon and Jordan.
• Christian Aid: www.christianaid.ie - donations that will support Christian Aid Ireland and its work in Syria, surrounding countries, and in the European countries most affected.
Should increasing numbers of refugees from Syria begin to arrive in Northern Ireland, the Moderator said that the Church’s International Meeting Point in South Belfast will continue to offer a place of welcome for them, as it does for people of all nationalities who come to the City.