The Ask Club is a free service provided by the Skelmersdale Ecumenical Centre, which is a charitable incorporated organisation.
The Ask Club opened in July 2021. It is a safe space for locally situated people seeking asylum and refugees.
About The Skelmersdale Ecumenical Centre
The Ecumenical Centre was built during the early 1970’s by the Church of England, Methodist, Baptist and United Reformed Churches as a place where these four Christian denominations could hold their services and provide a space for local community activities.
The charity trustees mandate that the centre; its facilities and staff, helps:
Children/young People, Elderly/old People, People With Disabilities, The General Public/mankind
As part of this help the Skelmersdale Ecumenical Centre:
Provides Services, Provides Advocacy/advice/information
About The Ask Club
The Ask Club opened in July 2021. It is a safe space for people seeking asylum and refugees living in Skelmersdale.
We work as part of the Skelmersdale Ecumenical Centre. Our staff and volunteers include people who are committed Christians, and Muslims. We work together, as peers and friends, in pursuit of a common aim.
Leviticus 19:34 “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.“
We aim to offer a safe space for people to visit and seek practical help. Sadly, many asylum seekers and refugees, due to their legal, social, and economic circumstances, are in a precarious position. While they live next to us, they are often not welcomed as neighbours.
While many local people live in poverty and face uncertainty in their lives, asylum seekers experience a unique precarity. They are forbidden from doing paid work, they are told where to live by the government, they are given a pittance to live on, typically they are separated from their loved ones, and they live in constant fear of being sent back to the hell from which they escaped previously.
The original meaning of ‘precarity’ meant ‘to ask’, ‘to entreat’, ‘to pray for help’. Asylum seekers, while waiting for the Home Office decision granting them leave to remain, can but only pray.
Exodus 23:9 “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.”
We can neither change political structures nor policies but we can try to help treat the acute, damaging, side effects of harsh treatment e.g. hunger, loneliness, sadness, anxiety, hopelessness.
What services does The Ask Club provide?
We give our visitors health information, help them access health services, receive information about their legal rights and provide signposting to qualified legal advisors.
Our caseworkers can help visitors to navigate bureaucracy and access NHS services and we signpost access to mental health support.
Living in poverty means eating the food you want to eat is an expensive luxury. We do what we can to supplement our visitor’s diets. Also, we direct visitors to local charitable partners, such as independent food banks. who give out help without asking for proof of one’s precarity i.e. a voucher.
Thanks to the donations we receive, visitors can get free food, clothing, footwear, and toiletries.
Later this year, our kitchen and café will re-open after an extensive refit and refurbishment.
Going through the asylum claim process can lay waste to a person’s mental health. The excessive wait, with no stated timeline, creates anxiety and depression for many claimants. We can help our visitors by offering a safe space to relax, socialise, and study.
Visitors can choose to sit and chat, relax and play board games, but always, we hope, surrounded by friendly faces.
Our motto: The Ask Club is a safe space for you.” Please come and visit. We are open every Monday afternoon from 12pm to 4pm (Seasonal holidays, Covid-19 shutdowns permitting).
Why does The Ask Club at the Skelmersdale Ecumenical Centre help asylum seekers and refugees?
Primarily, because the teachings of Jesus in the Bible commend us to do so. In the Gospel of Luke (Luke 10:25-37) we learn that Jesus was asked “Who is our neighbour?” Jesus often replied to such questions through parables. A parable is a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, as told by Jesus in the Gospels. The Parable of the Good Samaritan is about a foreigner who helped a stranger who was lying hurt by the roadside. On the face of it, we learn that we should help other people, even strangers.
Pope Francis said the parable of the Good Samaritan isn’t just a nice passage to reflect on, but signifies a concrete choice we make in deciding how to live and treat those around us. “The Good Samaritan indicates a lifestyle, the centre of which is not ourselves, but others, with their difficulties, who we meet on our path and who challenge us”
We are all members of a global family. Brothers and sisters all, we should build a better world built on fraternal love and social friendship. How can we, living in West Lancashire, be conscientious members of the global family? Think global, act local.
Hebrews 13:16 “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
Not everyone though is motivated to lead their life because of Christ’s teachings.
In this instance, why then should we help strangers, or foreigners who come to the UK. I suggest it is the right thing to do. Many people who don’t believe in God still endeavour to lead morally good lives and this includes trying to help other people who need help. Altruism, without a religious faith element, results from a respect and or a compassionate concern for other human beings. Simply, people want to live in a kinder world. Helping people who need our help plays a part in building a better world.
Elsewhere, I write explaining that, in my opinion, “Our negligence means that we owe our ‘neighbours’ a duty of care“. The article considers that nations from which people seeking asylum have come from are geographically distant., and it asks how then can these people be thought of as our neighbours and why should we be neighbourly towards them?
There are also more selfish reasons to help people, that are poor, weak, innocent, and living on the margins of society. Politicians and newspaper owners try to win votes and sell newspapers by trying to convince us that the foreigner, the stranger, is somehow our competitor or enemy.
History tells us that we must stand up and protect the human rights of people who are unpopular with the state. Martin Niemöller was a German, Lutheran pastor during the Nazi period. He wrote a poem:
First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me
What happens when our leaders pick another group of people to victimise? Like the Manic Street Preachers song says: “If you tolerate this, your children will be next”.
If you ignore the suffering of people seeking asylum, while hungry-for-power politicians abuse them, who will protect your rights when an unscrupulous government next decides to bully you and other people like you?
What treatment can a visitor to the Ask Club expect?
I hope we give every visitor a warm, friendly welcome. Read here to find out how we help visitors to The Ask Club.
Are you trying to convert asylum seekers to Christianity?
No. Paraphrasing something Pope Francis said: The mission of The Ask Club is not to convert people but to live in brotherhood with people of other faiths.
If you come to the club and you’re a Christian and you need a Bible, we will give you a Bible.
However, if you are a Muslim and you need a Quran, then we’ll give you a Quran.
If you have no religious faith, then we will happily just make you a cup of tea and talk about the football (I am kidding, I know nothing about football, but we do try and make sure we have a stock of teas and coffees that favour a wide variety of taste palates).
Conversion is not our mission.
Christians do believe that it is right to share the Good News. Although, the necessary work of bringing the Truth to others must always be done in love and with respect for the other person.
Many of our visitors either worship God according to the Islamic faith, or they adhere to no particular religious faith.
When working with asylum seekers and refugees, it is easy to take for granted, or be blind to, the power our citizenship, social status and relative wealth bestows. There is an unfortunate power imbalance between people who give out aid and those who, because of their present circumstances, must receive it.
We must be mindful of the social and material inequity inherent in the relationships we have with the people we serve. While the term has an ancient and positive meaning, in modern parlance ‘to proselytise’ has a negative connotation, including:
“Using political, social and economic power as a means of winning new members for one’s own church. Extending explicit or implicit offers of education, health care, or material inducements or using financial resources with the intent of making converts. Manipulative attitudes and practices that exploit people’s needs, weaknesses or lack of education especially in situations of distress, and a failure to respect their freedom and human dignity.” (Excerpt from Fr. Leo Walsh’s USCCB article).
The Church grows best by attraction and not by inducement. What we believe is best demonstrated by how we lead our life and how we treat other people.
The support offered by The Ask Club is NOT contingent on the religious beliefs of our members. We love our neighbour and we seek nothing in exchange. Our support is not transactional.
The highest love is that which wills the good of the other person.
Our trustees are Christians, as are many of the centre staff and volunteers: Methodists, Baptists, Church of England, and Catholics. Working together is an ecumenical matter.
However, not all the people who work for and at the centre are Christians. The Ask Club translator/ caseworker is a Muslim, the WEA English teacher at the ASK Club is a Muslim. Oher people who work at the centre have no particular religious faith.
What unites us all is our commitment to helping people.
Matthew 25: 31-40. “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
If you want to donate food and toiletries to help locally situated people seeking asylum, and refugees, please visit the donations needed page for a list of our current needs.