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Local church members “invite refugees to their homes, let their children get to know their children, show them where to get a discount on children’s clothes.”
On Friday, 5 February, the second group of refugees, 17 out of a planned total of 154, arrived in Prague. Although these numbers appear to be a woefully inadequate response to the present crisis, these refugees are part of a program that, if it succeeds, could lead to great improvements in the attitudes and policies of the Czech government regarding Middle Eastern refugees.
It is unusual for anyone to either apply for or be accepted for political asylum in the Czech Republic.
OPPOSED VIEWS CLASH
The present refugee crisis therefore presents a new challenge, leading to divided opinions over how the nation should respond. Passions run deep on both sides.
In general, public opinion and official government policy are resistant to allowing refugees from the Middle East into the country. Demonstrations both for and against aiding refugees staged in Prague on 6 February resulted in brief street scuffles and an arson attack on the Klinika refugee assistance center in the Žižkov neighborhood.
This violence only highlights how emotional this issue is in the Czech Republic.
CHRISTIAN IRAQI AND SYRIAN REFUGEES ARRIVE
The positive example of citizens and government coming together to discover a better way forward is the recent action by the Czech government allowing charity organization Generation 21 to resettle 34 Iraqi and Syrian families.
After months of discussion, the government finally approved the resettlement of these specific families in December 2015. The first 10 individuals arrived in January 2016.
The families to be resettled in the Czech Republic are Christians from Iraq and Syria. Upon arrival, these families receive their necessary paperwork from the Czech government, are given medical checks, and receive six months of education in the Czech language and culture to aid them in integrating into their new homes. The overall costs relating to the relocation will be shared by the Generation 21 charity and the Czech government.
GENERATION 21 AND EVANGELICALS
The newcomers begin their stay in the Czech town Jihlava, although once their sixth month orientation is complete, they are expected to move to various locations in order to begin new careers and employment.
The Czech Evangelical Alliance is working with Generation 21 to recruit churches to help these families in their resettlement.
Most of the adults already have professional skills and qualifications that they hope to continue to put to use.
LOCAL AND REFUGEE FAMILIES MEET EACH OTHER
In an interview with Radio Praha, Jan Talafant, founder of Generation 21, described the response from the local community: “[T]here are local churches and fellowships and people from them who just come to get to know the refugees, talk to them and to tell them that they are welcome here.”
“They invite them to go on weekend trips, to their homes and to let their children get to know their children, bake them a cake or show them where to get a discount on children’s clothes.”
NEW DOORS OPENED
Generation 21, working in partnership with the Czech Government and backed up by the excellent response from local Christians, demonstrates that it is possible to deal with the refugee crisis in a way that helps both the refugees and the host country.
If this initial project is a success, it could open the way for many similar projects that will help significantly more people in the near future.
It is not the complete solution, as admittedly this project is focusing on helping only a limited number of persecuted Christians, yet it provides a much-needed positive example of how Central and Eastern European nations are capable of contributing to the solution of the refugee crisis.