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Actions to assist refugees ‘will speak louder than words’

11 September 2015



Sorted: scores of volunteers at The Hive in Dalston, east London, sort through piles of donations bound for the migrant camps in Calais

Sorted: scores of volunteers at The Hive in Dalston, east London, sort through piles of donations bound for the migrant camps in Calais

DIOCESES in the Church of England have responded to the refugee crisis by asking the Government to do more, and for communities to lobby politicians for their support. Church leaders have also advised that those desperate to help offer shelter, clothing, and food.

In a letter to The Times on Monday, the Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd David Walker, wrote: "Charities and churches in the UK stand as ready as their counterparts in Germany and elsewhere to play a proper part in helping assimilate an equitable and realistic number of refugees into Britain.

"We did so with past crises in Vietnam and Uganda; we can do it again. We call on political leaders of all persuasions to seize the moment, and work with us so that Britain, once again, becomes a haven for those for whom life has become a hell."

The Bishop of Warrington, the Rt Revd Richard Blackburn, has suggested that Christians respond through prayer, donations to charities, churches and foodbanks, and by putting pressure on politicians. Bishop Blackburn wrote on the diocese of Liverpool’s website: "I know that this is a complex area and we have no easy solutions. . . This weekend, in your parishes and church communities, I urge you to look at how you can respond."

A Southwark diocesan statement on Tuesday remarked on the "real and urgent need to act locally". The congregation of Southwark Cathedral on Sunday donated an initial £2500 to support the work with refugees of the Anglican Church in Athens. The cathedral is also supplying Bibles in different languages to those worshipping in a church in the camp in Calais, as well as offering accommodation owned by the diocese to Syrian families.

The Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, commended the call to action: "This is a time when actions will speak louder than words. We are compelled to come to the aid of our brothers and sisters in their hour of need, and we will be glad to do so in partnership with others."

In Wales, the Bishops released a joint statement on Tuesday expressing the "horror and dismay" caused by the crisis. "Christians are called by God to show hospitality to strangers, and to extend help to those who are vulnerable, homeless, and victims of injustice."

The Archbishop of Canterbury said last week that the UK had a "moral duty" to act in the face of the "appalling and enormous" crisis.

A Church of England spokesperson said: "The refugees who come to Britain will need support and practical assistance at local level in the many communities that receive them — the Church of England’s structure of parish and diocese enables us to respond in ways that fit local contexts and ensure good face-to-face relationships as well as material outcomes.

"We shall strive to make central advice and support available where some may find it useful, but local churchpeople are best placed to know what will work in their area."

A new church body is being set up to draw together expressions of concern from Christians in the UK for victims of the Syrian conflict.

The group, called Syria and its Neighbours, is pioneered by George Bell House at Chichester Cathedral. It was commended by the Archbishop of Canterbury in a speech in the House of Lords on Monday.

The new body will work across the denominations and with charities to represent a "clear, firm moral responsibility" to the political, economic, and social complexities of the crisis.

The founder of the George Bell Institute, Dr Andrew Chandler, writes in a letter to Church Times today that the group will "secure a clear national picture of what resources — financial, practical, and pastoral — might be offered by local churches".


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