12 inspiring stories of refugee welcome from around the world

When I was a kid, my parents built an extension on our house and took in a bunch of foster kids, including two orphaned Cambodian refugee children who became like a brother and sister to me.

Then, my Dad converted an old boat shed on our property into a small 2 bedroom apartment which they used to welcome refugee families from Laos and Vietnam. Over the years, we had Christian, Buddhist and Muslim families living on our property.

As a boy, I saw how my parents practiced the radical welcome of Christ and it deeply influenced the way I have lived out my own faith. Inspiring examples of radical hospitality awaken our imagination to a different way of being the church. 

So, here are 12 inspiring examples of refugee welcome from around the world to light a fire in your cold and cynical heart:


1. Prime Minister welcomes refugees into his OWN home

Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila rocks his hipster glasses at a refugee reception centre in Oulu.

Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila rocks his hipster glasses at a refugee reception centre in Oulu.

Finland’s well-dressed Prime Minister, Juha Sipila, has announced that he will personally lead the welcome of refugees in his country by offering his own home, north of Helsinki, to house refugees. “We should all take a look in the mirror and ask how we can help,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Finland's government doubled its estimate for the number of asylum seekers they could welcome to the country this year to 30,000.

Finland has a population of about 5 million. 


2. Hungarians see that newcomers are barefoot, offer their own shoes

Bless their soles. Hungarians leave shoes for refugees at a Budapest railway station.

Bless their soles. Hungarians leave shoes for refugees at a Budapest railway station.

Despite the Hungarian government's heavy-handed approach to refugees, some Hungarian citizens are determined to help“I am just really ashamed about the government, that they don’t help these people at all,” said Barbara Baranyai, 31, who had travelled 20 miles to the station to donate shoes, baby clothes, fruit, biscuits and blankets.

Donated shoes and other gifts have been dropped off at the station by hundreds of volunteers from groups like MigSzol Szeged (or Migrant Solidarity for those who can't sneeze their words) - organized on Facebook to offer direct assistance to refugees. 


2. German football fans kick racism out of the park

Refugees welcome. Also beer... and pretzels.

Refugees welcome. Also beer... and pretzels.

Football fans in Germany have been speaking out loud and clear about the European refugee crisis - by welcoming asylum seekers at their soccer games.

Crowds at various clubs displayed huge banners with the message "Refugees Welcome" and Borussia Dortmund (apparently that's the name of a football team) even invited 220 refugees and asylum seekers along to watch a game.

Definitely a win for both teams! Goal!!!


3. Aussies "crowd-fund" a house to live together with asylum seekers

Once an old meth lab – now a home. [Photo Source: Facebook First Home Project]

Once an old meth lab – now a home. [Photo Source: Facebook First Home Project]

When the bank rejected their loan application, dread-locked pastor and activist Jarrod McKenna and his wife Teresa launched a social media campaign that invited the wider public to “be the bank” and lend them the rest of the money. Astonishingly, within a couple of weeks, the community had pledged the full $600,000 in loans and donations, the last donation sneaking in just five minutes before the deadline. Sweet!

But this is no ordinary home, First Home Project offers a welcoming community to asylum seekers and refugees where they can get a ‘hand up’ to start their lives in the land of Oz. The rental history helps them move on to more permanent rental agreements and the supportive community helps them to become more settled into local life.


4. World's most humble president opens his summer house for 100 refugee children

Pepe - will you be my Grandad?

Pepe - will you be my Grandad?

Uruguayan President José "Pepe" Mujica is opening his summer retreat house for as many as 100 Syrian children fleeing the war-torn country. 

Pepe is the sandal-wearing, VW Beetle-driving, farm-living leader, known as the "poorest president in the world."

He donates most of his $12,000 monthly salary to charity and lives in a one-bedroom home. Pepe - you're our man!


5. Roommates set up AirBnB website for refugees

After Mareike Geiling and Jonas Kakoschke shared a flat with a young man who had fled from Mali, they wondered if they could help others do the same. Using their design and programming skills they set up a website to match up "welcoming Germans" with needy refugees housed in tent camps. 

The German version of AirBnB for refugees is helping newcomers find a spot in flat shares and family homes. They say, "The idea is that you live together with locals to help you build a better life in Germany." Right on!


6. US millionaires buy a boat, save drowning refugees

Regina and Chris Catrambone were sunning themselves on board a luxury yacht cruising around the Mediterranean - but their fancy vacation was rudely interrupted when they spotted something in the sea... 

"My husband and I were on the deck and we saw a winter jacket floating in the water, like a ghost," says Regina. They realized it belonged to one of the thousands of refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean. At that moment, they made a decision which would not only alter their own lives, but also the lives of thousands of refugees. 

The Catrambones bought an $8 million yacht and launched a search and rescue operation.


Good lookin' family! Big cuddly hugs to you guys :)

Good lookin' family! Big cuddly hugs to you guys :)

7. Syrian family find refuge in German police barracks

A Syrian man whose poignant image shook the world has found a home in in Spandau, Germany in former police barracks which have been adapted to house hundreds of refugees.

Laith Majid and his family had fled the Islamic State in Deir Ezzor, a Syrian city destroyed by civil war violence. They squeezed on a little rubber dinghy with 15 other men, women and children and crossed over from the Turkish resort town of Bodrum to Greece. 

The family said seven-year-old Nour still has nightmares about their night spent crossing the water. “We’ll never go back to sea,” says Majid quite understandably. Thank God they are safe now.


8. Pope Francis welcomes refugees into the Vatican, asks churches to do likewise

My favourite white-caped superhero, Pope Francis, meets refugees in Turkey

My favourite white-caped superhero, Pope Francis, meets refugees in Turkey

The Pope has thrown the weight of the almighty Catholic Church behind efforts to welcome refugees, calling on every European parish, religious community, monastery and sanctuary to take in one refugee family.  Throw open the gates!

Not one to shrink from leading by example, the pope said the Vatican would also open its doors to two refugee families. Echoing the words of scripture, Pope Francis said it was not enough to say, "Have courage, hang in there," to the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are on the march towards safety (James 2:16).


9. Ten thousand Icelanders offer their own homes after their government commits to take just 50 refugees

This author urged her fellow Icelanders to speak out on Facebook and everyone said Ja!  [Photo: Óli Gneisti / Creative Commons]

This author urged her fellow Icelanders to speak out on Facebook and everyone said Ja! 
[Photo: Óli Gneisti / Creative Commons]

Yep - that's right. 10,000 warm-hearted Icelanders offered to welcome Syrian refugees into their own homes after their stingy government said it would take in only a handful.

Popular Icelandic author, Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir (say that out loud ten times!), encouraged her fellow citizens to stand up and speak out in favour of those in need of refuge. In the space of 24 hours, 10,000 Icelanders took to Facebook to offer up their homes and urge their government to do more. Iceland has a population of just 300,000.

Here's one typical responder - Hekla Stefansdottir wrote, "I'm a single mother with a 6-year-old son... We can take a child in need. I'm a teacher and would teach the child to speak, read and write Icelandic and adjust to Icelandic society. We have clothes, a bed, toys and everything a child needs. I would of course pay for the airplane ticket." 


10. Refugees set off on foot across Europe and a convoy of cars comes to get them

Refugees begin a slow march to Austria from Budapest after trains and police made things difficult for them.

Refugees begin a slow march to Austria from Budapest after trains and police made things difficult for them.

When thousands of refugees began walking cross-country from Hungary to Austria, a bunch of Austrian volunteers decided, "Screw this! We're not going to just sit here and wait for them to arrive!" A convoy of around 140 vehicles set out from Vienna to pick them up and distribute aid.

Kurto Wendt, an Austrian organizer of the campaign, said he was not scared of being arrested in Hungary, "Ten children were hospitalized overnight. The people are hungry, with poor clothing. Every day that you don't get people to safety they can die, so we have to do this immediately."


11. Aussies light up the night in vigils across Australia

Australia - you've never looked so good.  [Photo: Luis Ascui]

Australia - you've never looked so good. 
[
Photo: Luis Ascui]

Thousands of people gathered across every major city in Australia last weekend in "Light the Dark" candlelight vigils in support of Syrian asylum seekers.

The Australian government, has put in place a widely criticized and heavy-handed approach to refugees. But not all Aussies support those draconian policies.

Attendees lit candles inside cardboard coffee cups in memory of those who have been killed on deadly sea journeys in search of safety and declared that "Refugees are welcome in Australia." Good one mate!


12. Syrians welcomed with cheers and flowers to small German town

One small town in Germany decided to give a heartwarming welcome to refugees arriving by bus. The video – posted to facebook – shows Germans from the tiny town of Oer Erkenschwick welcoming the newcomers by cheering, waving and offering flowers. Yes!

#Danke_Deutschland الالمان يستقبلون السورين بالورود شكرا من القلب لكل الشعب الالماني والحكومة المانية التي فتحت ابوابها بالابتاسامة والورود والمحبة بعكس كثير من دول العربية وشكرا من القلب للشعب الالمانيDie Deutschen begrüßen das syrische Volk mit Blumen. Dafür danken wir dem deutschen Volk und der Regierung von ganzem Herzen, dass sie ihre Türen für uns öffnen im Gegensatz zu den arabischen Ländern.

Posted by Talal Abk on Tuesday, August 25, 2015

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