From Dr Andrew Chandler
Sir, — For some time, work has been under way to create a new body to express the concern of Christians in this country for the victims of a terrible, and escalating, conflict in Syria and its neighbouring states.
These efforts have the firm encouragement of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, and the General Secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.
The body has liaised with various existing authorities and bodies, inside the Churches and outside. Equally, it has begun to represent the commitment of Christians from all walks of life who have been shocked to find themselves witnessing a defining humanitarian disaster of our time.
It is simply because we live in freedom, peace, and security in this country that we owe a particular duty to those whose lives have been devastated by the traumas of relentless conflict, and a desperate flight in search of a safe new home. While the government policy of resettling refugees continues to evolve, we can all exercise a very real measure of Christian responsibility. It is clear that the making of a just and compassionate public policy, both national and local, will now be influenced if significant numbers of us show that we are prepared to play our part.
Across all the Churches we must assess clearly what we have to offer. We have prayer, money, goodwill. A detached observer might quickly see that we also have tangible things to offer: in places at our church schools, colleges and universities; in various social organisations, in under-used buildings that might offer accommodation (temporary or for longer periods); in quite informal pastoral networks whose members may visit and reassure new arrivals.
We know that a great deal of sympathetic experience and knowledge is to be found in the congregations themselves: among retired school teachers, who might help to teach English to adults and children, or support themin learning new skills; among school and college students who can inspire each other, and think and work together.
If this overall sense of resources could be put together in a coherent framework, and effectively fostered, it would be a vital step at a crucial moment. Then we can hope to build a national response in which isolated individuals, moved to act, may find each other; in which local initiatives may teach each other; and from which the various elements of policy and public goodwill may grow together with confidence.
A full statement will be released shortly. But while we work as fast as possible to establish our mandate, we would very much welcome your support. If you would like to know more, if you are interested in helping in your own church and area, or if you have news to share, please write to us at the address below; or email A.Chandler@chi.ac.uk
Syria and its Neighbours
c/o George Bell House
4, Canon Lane
Chichester, PO19 1PX