Today, more than 65 million people are displaced globally. Forced from their homes by violence, fear or desperation, each is deserving of safety, freedom and hope.
The stories we hear and the stories we tell are important. They help us shape our thoughts, form our opinions and set the agenda.
So when refugees are portrayed negatively in the media, their inherent dignity is challenged. But every one of us has a voice in this story, and in times of political uncertainty at home our message of shared humanity is more important than ever.
Changing the story
We want to tell a story that upholds those escaping injustice and war, and that celebrates those who offer a welcome.
We believe we are all created equal with the image of God within us. We stand for a UK that refuses to turn a blind eye to the suffering of people seeking sanctuary.
While many communities and churches are united in welcoming those seeking refuge, the response of the UK Government has not matched the scale of the crisis.
Through sharing stories of hospitality, and the positive contributions that refugees make in our communities, we demonstrate our commitment to a United Kingdom that refuses to turn a blind eye to suffering and affirms that everyone deserves a safe place to call home.
Join us in changing the story around refugees: write to your newspaper and tell them that refugees deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion.
Behind the label
Asylum seekers and refugees here in the UK have been telling us their stories. Join us in celebrating these honest and brave accounts, which reveal the people and the struggle behind the label. Witness the important contributions that they are making to their communities. Together, we can #changethestory.
I would like people to know that I am a human being. Maybe the difference is my colour, and my very soft voice, and my big structure, but I breathe the same air you breathe.
I come from Ivory Coast. I was a teacher back home. I got involved in the student union and activities – that is how everything changed. I had to leave.
You lose so much and people don’t see it. If something happens to your relatives at home, you can’t go back. And people think that you have no education, no background.
God is helping me. Without him, I would not be able to do it.
I came with nothing, I couldn’t even bring photos of my children.
I literally ran from Somalia. There’s fighting everywhere. I don’t know where my husband and my mother are, I haven’t heard any news of them for two and a half years.
Belfast is a good place, it is safe. It was very hard applying for asylum, but I was granted refugee status. Now I learn English, I shop, and I cook. I would like to be a nurse.
I was so happy when my children came here. I live in a hostel, but I still have stress about finding a home for my family.
At times I feel negative, but more positive than negative.
I still have a life I believe, if I am able to work.
I’m from Kenya. I had to flee for my life. I studied business administration, but here I am volunteering at NICRAS.*
I’m quite ashamed to associate myself as an asylum seeker. In most places they see that you are less of a human. But the longer I am here, the more I see that people are welcoming.
I am funny… I am kind… I am hardworking. I am not alone regardless of what I have been going through. God will not abandon me.
* NICRAS is the Northern Ireland Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers. As volunteers, Justin, Naomi and a small team provide advice, food parcels, and outreach education to schools, churches and the community on asylum and refugee issues. Justin became chair of NICRAS in 2010. He has won three prestigious awards for his work supporting others.
Write to your local paper
Here are some suggestions for what to include in your letter:
- Explain why you believe refugees deserve to be welcomed.
- We know that faith groups are at the heart of the response locally. Tell a positive story about the contribution that refugees have made in your community, or a group that is making refugees welcome.
- Highlight the local angle. If relevant, praise any compassionate coverage relating to refugees in the newspaper you are writing to.
- Explain that you believe that the government can and must do more. Call on the UK government to host at least double the number of refugees that the government has currently pledged to support.
- Try to keep it short and to the point!