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Welcome for refugees from the Middle East

28 November 2014


From Dr Christopher Rigg

Sir, - Bishop Rowell's report on the search for doctrinal agreement with the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox Churches (Comment, 14 November) was timely. The same issue told of the plight of refugees between North Africa and Italy. Please keep up news from the Middle Eastern Churches.

Outside our village is a reception centre for new refugees. They find their way in, mostly to while away their afternoons in the village park. A few find their way into the churches, where we now have a supply of Bibles and Testaments in Middle Eastern languages.

Over the past years, they have been arriving from Eritrea, where the Christian minority is viewed with suspicion since independence from Ethiopia. There has been a trickle of persecuted Christians from Iran, some of whom joined our Anglican chaplaincy congregation. Now there is a stream from Syria, where there has been a tradition of religious tolerance.

Most are Sunni, a few are Christian, and recently Iraqi Kurds have started to arrive. They are all dazed and bewildered from the violence, and the cost and hazards of a long uncertain journey to Western Europe, looking for peace in a strange environment with a foreign language. Even recently, I met a refugee from Saidnaya, near Maaloula, with its Convent of Our Lady, probably constructed in the sixth century and a place of pilgrimage and peace, not just for Christians.

Many want to continue their journey to Britain, despite the increasing xenophobia and the ever tighter immigration checks. They certainly cannot be labelled economic migrants. If they get through the frontier net, make them welcome in your communities and in your churches. Any difference in doctrine or belief is not a concern. Pray with them that peace, salaam, may return to their once beautiful countries.

Langhoven 57, 6721 SL Bennekom

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