UPDATED 16 SEP - Churches Respond to Refugee Crisis

by Gerry Lynch last modified 16 Sep, 2015 09:03 PM

Parishes are offering money, support and sanctuary to those in genuine need.

UPDATED 16 SEP - Churches Respond to Refugee Crisis

An Iraqi family crosses the Serbian-Hungarian border. One daughter has cerebral palsy and cannot speak or walk. Her father carried her through Turkey, Greece, Macedonia and Serbia. Photo from Christian Aid.

Parishes across the Diocese are responding to the refugee crisis in a number of ways, sometimes as a direct response to worship and prayer. 

At St James' in Ludgershall, parishioners discussed how to respond to the crisis after their Sunday service on 10 September, when the readings at the Eucharist were Jesus healing the daughter of a foreign woman and opening the ears of a deaf man from Mark’s Gospel, and the letter of St James in which it is declared that “faith without works is dead”. 

As a result, they decided to pray, would donate clothes via the group “Salisbury solidarity for Calais Refugees”, to donate money to the Red Cross, and to tell their local MP and County Councillor that they felt strongly about helping refugees, wherever they come from. 

Parishioners of St James’ in Alderholt have collected a carload of clothes and bedding which will be distributed to Syrian and Iraqi refugees living in destitution in the city of Dohuk in Iraqi Kurdistan by the charity Samara’s Aid Appeal.

St Mary’s, Longfleet, in Poole is sending three vans with food, toiletries and other essentials for destitute refugees in ‘the Jungle’ in Calais in late September. Worshippers at Shaftesbury Team Ministry were among Christians from across the spectrum in the town who contributed to one vanload which has already departed. 

In Salisbury, Churches Together in Salisbury is helping plan the reception of Syrian refugees in the city directly from camps in the Middle East via the government scheme. Alabaré and the Trussell Trust will co-ordinate with official agencies locally. Given the likelihood that many of those coming via this route will either be unaccompanied children or have complex health needs, including war-related psychological trauma, their focus in on supported accommodation, and they have already identified one family unit and eight individual places.

In Marlborough, interested parties from local churches, the Town Council and other bodies, met in St Mary’s to explore the kind of help that would be offered should refugees come to the town. A letter expressing the views of the meeting, entitled “Marlborough Welcomes Refugees”, was sent to Wiltshire Council's Leader, Councillor Jane Scott and copied to Devizes MP Claire Perry MP as well as  Bristol-based MEP Ashley Fox.

Local politicians, including Salisbury MP John Glen, have commended churches for their response to the crisis. 

Asked for his views on the situation by the Salisbury Journal, Bishop Nicholas said, “The Government’s pledge to take 20,000 people in the next 5 years is a small start but won't be enough. We must work closely with the rest of Europe, and if we are going to take unaccompanied children we need to care for them properly, including once they turn 18.” 

The latter comment followed the government’s decision to return people who had come as unaccompanied child refugees from Afghanistan as children after the invasion of that country and had grown up largely in the UK, including some who had converted to Christianity while here and whose safety would be in peril were they to return. 

For more resources and links on how your parish can help refugees, please see our migration and refugees section.

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