MANY parishes in Berlin are now providing shelter for Ukrainians (News, 4 March): about 1500 people are staying in parish halls, churches, or flats belonging to the Berlin Protestant Church.
Volunteers in the neighbourhoods help parishes to house, feed, and care for mainly women and children who have nowhere else to go.
“No one should be left outside at night,” the Provost of the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia (EKBO), Dr Christina-Maria Bammel, said. She is campaigning for more parishes to consider opening their doors.
Like its counterparts further to the east, the German capital is struggling to cope with the constant stream of Ukrainian refugees, relying heavily on volunteers and church organisations.
Caritas and Carmelite nuns helped a parish in the Prenzlauer Berg to transform a former care home into emergency accommodation for 180 war refugees.
Caritas intends to set up a Caritas Ukraine Centre, where refugees and volunteers can meet up or obtain counselling. Ukraine Centres will also be set up in parishes elsewhere: for example, in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic parish in Berlin, which is also offering emergency accommodation for new arrivals.
Berlin is only 80km from the Polish border, and, as it has a good rail and road connection to Germany’s eastern neighbours, half the refugees coming to Germany arrive there. Last Sunday alone, 10,000 arrived — a figure that is expected to be exceeded in the coming days and weeks.
The Mayor of Berlin, Franziska Giffey, has said that the city-state will soon be unable to cope, and has appealed for federal aid.
At the city’s main railway station, the Berlin City Mission is on duty to provide pastoral care for newly arrived refugees.
By the end of the week, Berlin’s former Tegel airport will become a refugee-arrival hub manned in shifts around the clock. An unused terminal at the city’s new airport and the premises of the International Trade Fair are other facilities providing emergency housing for the new arrivals.
An ecumenical service of prayer for the victims of the war is due to take place this evening in the Protestant Cathedral in Berlin. On Sunday, all Roman Catholic parishes will hold a special collection for Ukraine to support Caritas International and local projects.
“We want to mourn the victims of the brutal aggression of the Russian State against the Ukraine. In doing so, we will listen in a special way to the voices of those who are suffering from this terrible war, and pray in ecumenical fellowship for peace and reconciliation,” the new Chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Dr Annette Kurschus, said.