For more than 70 years New Zealand churches have welcomed refugees into our communities, giving practical help and making friends with newcomers. Refugee resettlement became a core shared ministry of the National Council of Churches which was established in 1945.
Stories of migration, hospitality, and people seeking safety or asylum are constant threads through the Scriptures. As well as helping to welcome people in our communities, we have expressed this tenet of our faith by sharing what we can with displaced people around the globe. This year with Covid-19, things are very different, our borders are closed to tourists and refugees alike. We are not going into the world and the world is not coming here.
Our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is being pressured to open our borders, and annouced today that it would be "dangerous" to do so. I will go further and say it would be frankly STUPID to do so! They will not open for a long time yet. The only people coming into New Zealand are Kiwi's returning home and they will be quarantined for 14 days and that's how it needs to be right now!
Be aware there are many among us from overseas, tourists and backpackers, and foreign workers here on work Visa's that got caught here in the lockdown, some are desparate to go home but can no longer afford to return home as lockdown took all their savings others do not wish to return to their country of origin as it could be a death sentence but they are living in Backpackers, Motels etc. circumstances vary from person to person.
We need to offer practical support where we are able and make them feel welcome in our communities, they were not expecting to be trapped for so long in a place they were only visiting for a holiday they may need emotional and practical support, some would have had only summer clothing for their holiday and now we are looking winter in the face, they would not have had the benefit of the wage subsidy etc and may long since have run out of funds, they may need a home and a job, some after this is all over may decide to stay, but right now they are COVID-19 Refugees. Be aware they are in our communities, they are from different cultures and have different customs, don't assume you know, ask what you could do to help. Ask what you could do to make them feel more at home. We have Covid-19 Refugees among us.