Not turning our backs
Read: Acts 2:42-47
For Christian Aid supporters and staff, the month of May brings the familiar cycle of preparing for and taking part in Christian Aid Week. For many churches, it is an integral part of their calendars, a moment when they look outwards – into their own communities as members collect door-to-door, and beyond to our global neighbours overseas who struggle against the bonds of poverty, violence and injustice.
I wonder though how many people know why Christian Aid Week happens in May? This year sees the 60th anniversary of Christian Aid Week, and to celebrate, we are marking the dedication and ingenuity of some of our diamond supporters.
A few of these dedicated supporters took part in that first appeal in 1957, but the tradition of churches holding an appeal in May actually goes back further to the end of the Second World War. In the latter stages of the war, a group of Christians outraged by the devastation and displacement of people in Europe came together through the British Council of Churches.
With the coming of peace, they saw an opportunity to hold an appeal on the first Sunday after VE Day to raise money for the relief and resettlement of some of those millions in Europe who were displaced and destitute. It is because of this that Christian Aid Week happens when it does – and it is the longest continually running fundraising campaign in Britain.
Reflecting on this story, I am always struck by how Christians in this country were willing to give readily and generously, despite the immense hardship that faced them locally, to aid their former enemies. A contemporary report, now in the Christian Aid archive, states how this
'gave rise to the hope of our genuine understanding and concern for [the people of Europe], and of our desire to join with them in an effort to make Christ King amidst a world in ruins’.
I find a strong parallel here with the reading from Acts, where believers in Christ gave to all as they had need, and praised God, having the goodwill of all the people.
Today, as the world faces the greatest refugee crisis since 1945, it falls to our generation to respond. This year’s Christian Aid Week follows the story of Nejebar and her family – read more and join us this May.
Originally from Afghanistan, Nejebar and her family were forced to flee after her husband was threatened by the Taliban, and a cousin was blinded by them. She told us that ‘anything and everything in our country was a threat…they were putting bombs in the trees and on the roads’.
The family fled on foot, across deserts, mountains and sea, before arriving in Greece, where they have been for over 6 months. Their lives are on hold. Yet Nejebar’s aspirations are simple ones that we all can relate to:
‘We only want a peaceful life. We want our children to have an education, to go to school. The most important thing is for our children’.
There is no magic wand, no overnight solution to this crisis. That’s why Christian Aid’s work with refugees ranges from providing urgent food and hygiene essentials to longer term psychological support and education.
We’re also campaigning for action from the world’s governments, realising that bigger political change is urgently needed. But despite the scale of the challenge, we are resolved, just like that wartime generation before us, that we will be part of the solution.
We won’t turn our backs on refugees in need, and we will help build God’s Kingdom on Earth.
Worship materials, including a daily devotional, prayers and sermon notes are available for Christian Aid Week.