In the last few weeks I have heard a report which has left me shocked and appalled.
I have the privilege of supporting, encouraging and connecting student workers across the UK.* In face to face meetings and over the phone we share the joys and sorrows of this pioneering and potent ministry.
Within the last few weeks, a student worker has shared that in their town racism is so rife that international students are scared to leave their halls. Some leave at 7am and stay on campus until 9 or 10pm to avoid seeing people. When they are out in the day some face racial abuse from residents whilst others walk the streets fearful of it. As well as the abuse and fear, this further intensifies the divide between international and British students and the loneliness and isolation felt so often by those who come to study here from abroad. To think that this vulnerable people group, sometimes with limited English and living miles away from home, should be living in such fear is a disgrace. In looking into this since I’ve come to realise that this is a much wider-spread issue than just this one location.
This revelation provoked a potent conversation with that student worker, and since others, as to the needs of the students on our doorstep and our responsibilities as the local church in relation to them. University is billed as the best three or four years of life, and for many it is. However, for others, it can be fraught with anxieties, loneliness and personal tragedies. Whether due to racism, mental health, financial struggles or other reasons, who are the students near you who are in need of your help? As churches, our responsibility is to love and serve God and to love and serve those around us. How aware are we of the real needs of the students on our doorstep and what are we doing about them?
Since this first conversation I’ve travelled to a number of university towns in the UK and we’ve gone back to basics - asking these very questions - and its been brilliant to see how aware churches are of the realities of life on the campuses on their doorstep. Now’s the time to take action.
Please pray for those international students - for their safety and emotional health. Please pray for the local churches, that they can offer a safe haven, communicate love and welcome and speak out against this situation. Please pray for a culture shift that sees attitudes and actions change in that community and others who are facing similar challenges.
Please ask yourself these questions, with your student team if you have one:
- What are the pressing needs of the students in my city?
- What might our response to those needs be?
* If you are a student worker or church leader in a university town and would appreciate training, support and connections with others who are doing similar work, why not become a Fusion Connection Church? More here.