A PROJECT to mobilise support in churches for young refugees is coming to Liverpool next month, after a pilot event in Canterbury.
The initiative, Hat·tê·bah — a Hebrew phrase which means sheltering people in their time of need — offers training and support to churches and professionals who come into contact with young refugees. It is being run by the Mothers’ Union, the Children’s Society, and the adoption and fostering charity Home for Good, in partnership with different dioceses.
The project began in the diocese of Canterbury, which has a high proportion of young refugees who have arrived from Calais. Its next venue, Liverpool, is also home to new teenage refugees, including many from Syria.
The head of church engagement at the Children’s Society, Mo Baldwin, said that the programme was aimed at those who came into contact with refugees through their work in church, or through their profession. “It is about training, about awareness-raising, and about challenging inappropriate behaviour where it exists,” she said. “The initiative spans from prayer for refugees at one end to people beginning the process of fostering young refugees, through Home for Good.”
One example of practical advice that was given was that it is an offence to help an asylum-seeker to fill out his or her paperwork, which is not widely known, she said.
The project began with the Children’s Society, which said that it wanted to “tap into” the enthusiasm of people in churches to help refugees fleeing to the UK.
Ms Baldwin said: “It started with that image of the little boy washed up on the beach: it made us say, what can we do? How can we mobilise churches and capture their desire to make a difference? A lot of charities are directly working with refugees, as we do, but we thought we could also work with churches and harness their support.”
The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, said: “I am fully aware that our situation here in Merseyside prompts us to be constantly alert to those who arrive in our county. I am delighted that our organisations are able to work together on this joint venture.”
The project hopes to work with five more dioceses next year, and is also starting a postcard campaign to encourage Christians all over the UK to send cards of welcome to newly arrived young refugees.