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Agencies focus on fleeing Ukrainians  

11 March 2022

Largest exodus of refugees in Europe since 1930-45 war

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The Orthodox Archbishop Avondios Bica in a truck labelled “Humanitarian Emergency. Humanitarian Aids for Ukraine”, part of a convoy of vehicles taking aid to Ukraine from Milan, via Romania

The Orthodox Archbishop Avondios Bica in a truck labelled “Humanitarian Emergency. Humanitarian Aids for Ukraine”, part of a convoy of veh...

CHRISTIAN charities and churches are hard at work in Eastern Europe to address the plight of those affected by the war in Ukraine.

More than 2.1 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion on 24 February, according to UN figures on Tuesday, in what is the largest exodus of refugees in Europe since the end of the Second World War.

USPG and the diocese in Europe have put together an emergency appeal to help those caught up in the conflict. Funds are supporting the work of Anglican chaplaincies in neighbouring Poland and Hungary — but also in Western Europe, where many refugees are now arriving.

On Wednesday, the diocese’s Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Caspari, said that the chaplaincies’ community relationships and cross-continent links meant that they were ideally positioned to support refugees. They have been distributing aid, as well as individual grants.

The Bishop in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, said last Friday: “War is horrible. It injures, destroys, and kills in an often indiscriminate and uncontrollable way. And now, we face war in Europe.

“The people of our little church, Christ Church, Kyiv, find themselves in the midst of this crisis. They are typical of so many others. Some have fled the city, whilst others are still there, praying for their safety and for peace as they shelter as best they can. These people are our brothers and sisters. Those still in Ukraine and those who have fled need our help.”

USPG and the diocese in Europe are also working with longstanding ecumenical partners, including the Roman Catholic aid organisation Caritas International and the Lutheran World Foundation, to co-ordinate aid they. The Anglican chaplaincy in Kyiv shares a building with the Lutheran church.

The non-denominational aid organisations Samaritan’s Purse and Mission Without Borders are also working in Ukraine and surrounding countries.

Samaritan’s Purse is establishing a field hospital in Ukraine, providing 58 beds, two operating theatres, and an intensive-care unit, along one of the main routes out of the country. They have also established clinics in neighbouring Moldova.

The charity’s UK director, Darren Tosh, told the Church Times on Wednesday that the aim was to support the local health infrastructure. At the moment, the medical issues relate to the toils of fleeing war, including dehydration and psychological trauma. In time, they expected to be treating war casualties, too, providing extra capacity for the Ukrainian health-care system.

Samaritan’s Purse runs the annual Operation Christmas Child, which distributes shoeboxes of toys and school supplies to children in poverty. Mr Tosh said that the logistical partnerships that the charity had established in Ukraine over several decades were proving invaluable.

“Several decades of partnership with over 3000 churches in Ukraine means we already have a network that knows how to do a mass distribution across the country.”

Mission Without Borders (MWB), a non-denominational Evangelical organisation, is engaged in distributing hygiene parcels across Ukraine, in the Donbas region, Kyiv, and elsewhere, besides offering support to partners on the ground.

“One of our organisers managed to transport eight young children, who have cancer, to a hospital in a neighbouring country,” said the Church and Community Relations Manager for Mission Without Borders UK, Justin Hall.

He praised the “spectacular” response of UK churches in supporting MWB’s work.

The UK announced an extra £74 million of aid this week. And on Wednesday the UK’s Faith Minister, Kemi Badenoch, met London church leaders at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in London to demonstrate solidarity. Ms Badenoch said that the Government and faith leaders stood “shoulder to shoulder” with the Ukrainian community.

She paid tribute to the courage of the Ukrainians, and thanked the British public for their support. “As ever, the church and other faith communities have been at the heart of these humanitarian efforts, and I stand together with faith leaders in calling for peace and offering our full support.”

Seeking Sanctuary, a charity working with refugees in Calais, has drawn attention to the issues faced by Ukrainians who seek to enter the UK. In a statement on Monday morning, the charity urged UK authorities to “become flexible enough to find a generous and humanitarian solution to this challenge without further delay”.

It continued: “In contrast to the hundreds of thousands of people welcomed by Poland, we are talking about a small fraction of that amount.”

In Hungary, church relief agencies have taken a leading part in the country’s response to the unfolding refugee crisis (News, 4 March).

People wishing to support the USPG and Europe diocesan appeal can do so online at uspg.org/ukraine.

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