'Change The Story' FAQs

Let's clear up a few things about this campaign and why we're launching it...

Who are refugees?

Refugees are people fleeing violence, war and persecution. They have a legal right to seek sanctuary and to find safety. Because of this, it’s incorrect to call refugees ‘illegal’ – one of the words that is used most commonly in UK media to describe refugees. There is nothing illegal about seeking refuge from war or persecution.

Why is Christian Aid working with refugees?

Christian Aid was founded in response to the refugees of the Second World War, mostly in Europe. We have a long history of helping refugees and advocating for their rights. Today we are witnessing the highest number of displaced people since WWII, people who are fleeing conflict from all around the world, including the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and Europe.

We are proud to be campaigning alongside UK churches and charities to change the story that we tell about refugees. After all, if we are not treating refugees with dignity here in the UK, we cannot expect other countries to do so.

How is Christian Aid working with refugees around the world?

Christian Aid has been working with refugees in camps on the Thai-Myanmar border for three decades. In 2016-17, they will finally be returning home.

We are also working through our ACT partners to provide for the immediate needs of refugees on the move in Europe and with partners in the Middle East to enable displaced Syrians and Iraqis to access psychological and social support.

We’re also providing specialist services such as physiotherapy for refugees with disabilities and legal support for women who are at risk of, or have experienced, gender-based violence.

Our partners are working in South Sudan, in the DRC and in other places around the world to support communities displaced by conflict and violence. 

How is the language the media uses about refugees damaging?

When words such as ‘tidal wave’ or ‘swarm’ are used to describe movements of people, it not only dehumanises those in need, but also implies a movement of people on a scale that simply doesn’t reflect reality. In actual fact refugees make up a very small percentage of the population of Europe and migration of all kinds greatly enriches the social fabric of host societies; both culturally and economically. For example, it’s estimated that Ugandan Asians forced from home by Idi Amin in the 1970s have created 30,000 jobs in Leicester.

65 Million is a lot of people… surely the UK can’t welcome that many people?

The UK can’t welcome all the world’s refugees, but that doesn’t justify the dehumanising language that is often used to speak about them.

At the moment, the UK is providing aid to refugees around the world but is not playing it’s part in hosting refugees themselves. We have committed to host 20,000 refugees from Syria by 2020 where as countries nearer the conflict are hosting millions. We believe the UK could welcome more people than that – and there’s a huge role for churches to play in hosting people!

What are churches in the UK doing to support refugees?

It might not be widely known, but faith communities are at the heart of the refugee response here in the UK. The Archbishop of Canterbury is planning to receive a refugee family in Lambeth Palace. Other church leaders, and ordinary people in congregations are doing the same. There are many local churches who are sharing their time, money and homes to extend hospitality and welcome to some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people.

Many people in the UK are supportive of refugees and feel a lot of compassion. But in some parts of the country people have genuine concerns about immigration. How can we balance this?

While it is right to be concerned for our brothers and sisters suffering from oppression around the world, it is important to recognise that there are still high levels of inequality and poverty in our own country.

As we wrestle with our own inequality we need to recognise how we can best ‘welcome the stranger’. That must always mean recognising the dignity and infinite worth of every individual, whoever they are and wherever they are from.

My local newspaper and town/city is actually very positive towards refugees. Can we still take part in change the story?

Yes! A lot of places in the UK are very positive about refugees. You can still help change the story in the rest of the country by celebrating the positive coverage and hold your local newspaper up as a good example.

Has anything like this happened before?

Although the scale of movement may feel unprecedented, the world has responded many times before to the mass movement of people. Whether it was finding homes for Jewish children saved by the Kindertransport, or welcoming Ugandan Asians in the 1970s, and Kosovar refugees in the late 1990s, the UK has been part of positive solutions for refugees many times before. These refugees have also benefited the UK.

What about refugees who aren’t in Europe?

Although the refugees arriving in Europe get the most media attention, poor countries such as Lebanon and Iraq are hosting 86 per cent of the world’s refugees, while the five richest countries in the world — including the UK — host less than 5 per cent of all refugees.

If you still have questions about the campaign please ask away in the comments below!