Refugee Week (World Refugee Day June 20)

Refugee Week (20-26th June) is held annually to raise awareness about the issues affecting refugees and celebrate the positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society. June 20th is World Refugee Day. Rev Paul Turley has prepared sermon starters using the RCL readings and prayers (see downloadable file above). Paul’s prayers are also listed in the worship resources on this page (scroll down). 

In Australia, the 2021 theme is Unity – The way forward
“The volatility of life in recent times has shown us unequivocally that we need to work together often merely to survive, let alone to thrive and progress. Let’s take the opportunity to start afresh and rebuild our lives together. To count our blessings and to put them to work. Existing and emerging communities. Working together. The powerful potential of Unity. The special brew of ideas from all over the world that created our great way of life can continue evolving if we work together. Let’s not stop now, let’s move forward unified. We call for the spirit of unity as we recover from the isolation we have all endured in 2020. Stronger. Safer. Healthier. Happier. Together”. 

Opening prayer
Restless God, we know that you never rest in your love and concern for all of creation. We know that you ceaselessly search us out,
calling us to be here together in prayer and song and word.
We know that you do not rest until justice rains down on the earth
and until mercy flows like a river.
We are your people, your community, your family.
Today we open ourselves to your restless Spirit,
God of all creation we live in expectation of your work in our lives. Amen
(Source: Rev Paul Turley)

Prayer of Confession
Truth telling and truth giving God,
we confess that very often we hide from truth.
You call us to stand straight and tall in the sunlight,
when we would prefer to crouch and stumble in the dark.
You call us to open our eyes wide and to see your world
as it truly is, in all its complexity and confusion,
all its shades of good and bad,
when we, all too often prefer black and white categories
and simple explanations.
We confess that we often know you are calling us
in the big and small moments of our day
and yet we live as if this were not true,
as if you were not offering us abundant life in every moment. Forgive us God for preferring a quiet life to a full life,
a half-truth to the full truth of your love for us and all creation. Amen.
Words of Assurance
Sisters and brother, friends of God. Do not despair, you are precious to God and God never tires of calling and inviting you into the full life God has in store for us all. Rejoice! You are called! Rejoice! You are loved!
(Source: Rev Paul Turley)

Prayer of Intercession
God, we know you call us to go with you to the other side.
You call us to a world larger, more open and more loving than we can ever imagine. You call us to live in radical community with you and with each other.
You call us to a bigger version of ourselves than we have the courage to live
or the imagination to picture.
You call us to be one great family of all humanity.
Today we pray for all those in our community who do not know themselves called,
who do not experience themselves as being worthy of being called by anyone for any reason. Today we pray for all of those who truly wonder if life can have a meaning and a purpose, those who are sure that if it does, it does not include them.
We pray today for all who feel that they are on the outside looking in on community,
those who can find no way and no reason to participate.
We pray also for all of those who we have intentionally excluded,
all who have come to this land seeking refuge and safety
whom we have locked up, and treated harshly, unjustly and illegally.
We pray that they will receive justice.
God we pray for a world of radical inclusion, a home for all.
And we pray in the name of the great includer, Jesus. Amen.
(Source: Rev Paul Turley)

Benediction
They left their nets and followed Jesus.
They left their boats and went with him.
Today God call us into new life, into a new world. We are called by God.
Go now to hear and experience that call,
moment by moment,
thought by thought.
And we will know ourselves transformed.
(Source: Rev Paul Turley)

Compassionate One,
our society has failed you.
You were a refugee, seeking safety and freedom,
      and we did not welcome you.
You were naked and exposed, with inadequate shelter and insufficient pay,
      and we did not fight with you for equal rights.
You were fearful of being detained or deported without a just trial,
      and we did not provide you sanctuary.
We seek forgiveness for the ways we have forsaken you,
and offer our thanks for the communities,
people, and organizations who have
      extended welcome,
      advocated for justice; and
      provided sanctuary to people seeking refuge despite opposition.
Teacher,
your instructions are clear:
      We shall not oppress migrant people, nor deprive them of justice,
      nor practice extortion or commit robbery against them;*
      We shall love strangers as ourselves,
            for we have all been strangers;
      We shall share our harvest, our homes, and our lives with others,
            thus extending the same hospitality that you have selflessly shared.
      We shall advocate for the human rights of all people.
Give us the steadfast persistence needed to follow your commandments
in these challenging times,
remembering that the love and respect that we show to each other
is the love that we show to you,
our Compassionate Teacher.
Amen
* See Exodus 22:21; Deuteronomy 10:18-19, 24:21; Ezekiel 22:29
(Source: Refugee Rights Day in Canada)

Common Grace prayer resources here.

Border Politics (a 2018 documentary with Julian Burnside)

Imagine if we truly understand and live by the truth that no one wins until everyone wins. Imagine if we understand and were able to see a world where there is no “me”, only “we”, there is no “them”, only “us”. Imagine if we lived by the understanding there is no “their” children or “my” child, there is only “our” children.
A photojournalist was taking pictures of the destruction of the war in Syria when he heard a sniper’s rifle. He turned and saw a child fall to the ground down the street. He rushed to her and she was being held by a man who said, “My child, my child, she’s been shot. Please help!”
The photojournalist ran to get his car and helped the man and wounded child into the backseat. The man said, “My child’s bleeding badly. Please hurry.”
They hurried to the hospital. They rushed the child into emergency leaving the photojournalist and man pacing in the waiting room. After some time a doctor walked through the door with that look that says we did all we could but it was too late.
The man said to the photojournalist, “We must go and find this girl’s father at once and tell him.”
The photojournalist said, “Father? I thought you were her father. You said ‘my child’?”
The man, with tears in his eyes, said, “THEY ARE ALL OUR CHILDREN.”
Those are the tear-filled eyes that can heal and restore our broken world. Those are the eyes of Jesus, the eyes that understand and see they are all OUR children. It seems like a good week to be reminded of the truth that there is no “their” children. They are all our children.
(Source: Steve Koski, Facebook post, 17th June)

Song: Jesus was a refugee (‘roughly’ 7.6.7.6)
Jesus was a refugee.
That’s how the story goes,
fleeing with his mom and dad
in the night from his foes.

Newborn in his parents’ arms,
he left nativity,
on the run, in search of peace,
far from captivity.

Refugees – the same today,
all yearning for new life,
leaving countries so war-torn,
escaping from the strife.

Refugees – we welcome them
as they begin anew.
We show hospitality
and love in what we do.
(Words: John Wesley Oldham, originally published on adventunwrapped.ca)A note from the author: The Gospel according to Matthew (2:13–18) is the only gospel that has this refugee story, and one wonders if Matthew or those before him created this story after the fact to connect with the Hebrew writings of Hosea 11:1; Exodus 4:22; Jeremiah 31:15; etc. Matthew has many quotations from the Hebrew writings as he tries to connect Jesus to them.

Uniting Church in Australia
In 2000, the 9th Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia expressed our commitment to seek “fair, humanitarian, adequately resourced and culturally appropriate government policies and procedures for the processing of refugees and asylum seekers”.

 

Merciful God,
whose Son became a refugee and had no place to call his own; 
look with mercy on those who today are fleeing from danger –
homeless and hungry. 
Bless those who work to bring them relief;
inspire generosity and compassion in all our hearts;
and guide the nations of the world towards that day
when all will rejoice in your commonwealth of justice and of peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Source: Sabeel Center, Jerusalem, https://socialjusticeresourcecenter.org
/prayers/refugees/
)

Silence Land – a poem by Mohammed Ali Maleki, 2017 while on Manus:
I have doubts about my sanity:
not everyone can bear this much.
They stole all my feelings;
there’s no wisdom left in my mind.
I am just a walking dead man.
I am just a walking dead man.
I have yelled for help so many times –
No one on this earth took my hand.
Now I see many mad things and imagine
how the world would look if it collapsed.
Perhaps it would be good for everything to
return to the past;
for nothing to be seen on the earth or in the sky.
It would feel so good to be a child
again and go back to my mother’s womb,
for there to be no sign of me
for never to have gone crazy in this place
………………………………
I sound crazy speaking this way! It’s the outcome of being detained for four years after seeking asylum on the sea. Mohammed Ali Maleki, 2017
(This poem, abridged, by an Iranian asylum seeker in detention on Manus Island were read as part of a poetic performance called ‘Through the Moon’. Sourced from ‘Adelaide Voices’, Sep-Nov 2017)

Downloadable resource here.
Because it’s important to understand what’s happening in the world and in Australia for those searching for freedom, this resource includes information about Australia’s history of accepting refugees, what it means to seek asylum, and how many refugees there are in the world and where they are living.
It describes an alternative to ‘stopping the boats’, and includes a section on the situation of the roughly 30,000 people who are living in the community waiting to have their claims for protection processed.
The resource includes worship resources for Refugee Week as well as a number of ideas for what you can do to help bring about positive change.

See also Migrant and Refugee Sunday resources on this site.

Resources for worship

Call to Leaders regarding Refugees
The Uniting Church in Australia responds
to the grace proclaimed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ,
who himself was a refugee.
We are called to work with all our hearts and minds
to love God, who is revealed in Jesus Christ.
We are called to express love and generosity of spirit
to the world for whom Christ died,
including the most marginalized people.
We seek to love the neighbour who is different
and welcome the stranger in our midst.
We implore civic leaders
to reflect the deep values of Australians,
shaped by different nations and cultures,
who seek to live in a world
characterized by peace and goodwill.
We therefore ask those leaders to embrace
a spirit of compassion
and concern for human dignity
in their considerations with regards
to Refugee and Asylum-seeker policy development.
(Source: Amelia Koh-Butler, Adopted by the South Australian Presbytery and Synod of the Uniting Church in Australia, October 2016)

Prayer of Invocation
God of hospitality and refuge,
come to us here in this place of security and safety. Remind us that you are the God Almighty;
large enough for all people,
all nations, all tongues.
Help us, with the presence of your Holy Spirit,
to be able to create space
for those who seek asylum and refuge.
In the name of Jesus, your Son. Amen.
(Source: UCA 2016 resource)

Lament
O Lord, how long shall we cry for help, and you will not listen?
Or cry to you, ‘Violence!’
and you will not save?
Why do you make us see wrong-doing and look at trouble?
In faith and hope, we respond:
‘How long, O God, how long?
(The response can be sung. The musical setting is in Uniting in Worship 2, p. 200)
Where is your justice, God?
Where is your purpose?
Where is your reason?
Where is your compassion?
Do you not care for your people,
your creation, your reputation?
Your purpose is hidden from our eyes.

In faith and hope, we respond:
‘How long, O God, how long?

Your reason is absent to our ears.
Your compassion is not discerned by our hearts.
We have no hope (and remember asylum seekers who have no hope).
We are lost (and remember asylum seekers who are lost).
We are afraid (and remember asylum seekers who are afraid).
In faith and hope, we respond:
‘How long, O God, how long?
(Source: from Uniting in Worship 2, Second Order of Service for the Lord’s Day, pp 200-202, adapted, The Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia (2005), Sydney: Uniting Church Press)

A Blessing for Refugees
We bless the host nations in their spirit of compassion and sharing that their citizens may be awakened to the immense human, intellectual and cultural wealth these newcomers represent for them. We bless all concerned in their consciousness that my sister or brother is myself and that the challenge of integrating these immigrants is truly an amazing gift of the universe in helping all work toward the win-win world that alone will guarantee the survival of the human race.
(Source: Pierre Pradervand, 365 Blessings to Heal Ourselves and the World, from The Gentle Art of Blessing page)

Affirmation
We are not alone. We live in God’s world.
We believe in God,
who has freely given the Holy Spirit
to bind us together as a community of grace.
We believe that the spirit can lead us
in the discovery of truth,
in the pursuit of justice, and
in the practice of caring for one another.
In our homes, in the church and in the community
the Spirit offers us inspiration and courage.
We are not alone. Thanks be to God.
(from Prayers on Parade (2006), compiled by Allan Shephard, Stepney, South Australia: Axiom Publishing. Permission is given for the use of this text in worship)

Leftover people in leftover places Hope is our song #85
Leftover people in leftover places,
troubled, disabled, the needy and sad,
scavenging crumbs from society’s plenty,
sick to the soul when their life has gone bad,
these are the ones in God’s upsidedown kingdom
deemed to be worthy and called to the feast,
soup-kitchen people invited to banquet,
valued as greatly as royal and priest.

Leftover people, disposable people,
locked into prisons of drugs and despair,
poverty’s children in poverty’s spiral,
locked out of learning and earning their share,
these are the ones in God’s upsidedown kingdom
these are the Christ in their shabby disguise,
these are the least and the highly unlikely,
given a hope and new light in their eyes.

Here is God’s testing of true Easter people,
spirited people with service to give,
taking to heart the compassion of Jesus,
feeling how others must struggle to live,
we are a part of God’s upsidedown kingdom,
we know the heart of the gospel’s demand,
taking our part with the leftover people,
widening the space of the lines in the sand.
(Words: Shirley Murray; Music: Colin Gibson)

In 2020, the dates are Sunday 14th to Saturday 20th June.
#Year of Welcome is the theme for Refugee Week 2020 in Australia (virtual and digital resources available at the link.

refugee week 2016
‘Angels Unawares’ by Canadian artist Timothy Schmaltz (St Peter’s Square, Rome)

“Angels Unawares’ sculpture, by Canadian artist Timothy Schmaltz
(see image above)
The sculpture commemorates migrants and refugees. It is a life-size sculpture in bronze and clay, that depicts a group of migrants and refugees from different cultural and racial backgrounds and from diverse historic periods in time. The figures stand together, shoulder to shoulder, huddled on a raft. Within this diverse crowd of people, angel wings emerge from the centre, suggesting the presence of something sacred among them. In fact, the sculptural work interprets the belief that the sacred is to be found in the stranger, in this case, in refugees and migrants. The inspiration behind the work is taken from a biblical passage, St Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares”. (Hebrews 13:2)

Refugee Week 2020: Year of Welcome

The Uniting Church’s ‪Refugee Week 2016  resource Searching for Freedom celebrates the rich diversity refugees bring to Australian society! Searching for Freedom is a reminder of what people are doing when they flee situations of persecution and grave danger. 2016 SearchforFreedom_RefugeeWeekResource

About admin

Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon) in placement at Pilgrim Uniting Church, in Adelaide CBD (12 Flinders St). This blog is mainly to resource worship planners for our services, but of course may be useful for others. We have some great writers of music, words for hymns and liturgy at Pilgrim, so this blog also includes their words.
This entry was posted in Refugee Week. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Refugee Week (World Refugee Day June 20)

  1. Pingback: COCU Index Year B 2017-18 | pilgrimwr.unitingchurch.org.au

Comments are closed.