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Relief agencies scale up help for refugees

25 March 2022

ALBIN HILLERT/WCC

A children’s centre at a church compound in Milișăuți, Romania, visited by a delegation from the World Council of Churches, last week, now repurposed to host refugees from Ukraine

A children’s centre at a church compound in Milișăuți, Romania, visited by a delegation from the World Council of Churches, last week, no...

CHRISTIAN relief agencies are working in Europe to help refugees from the war in Ukraine as the crisis enters its fifth week.

World Vision, a Christian charity that focuses on children and families, has been active since the start, providing emergency practical and psychological support for the many children and mothers fleeing the conflict.

The director of communications and advocacy for World Vision Romania, Andreea Bujor, said on Wednesday that trauma counselling was a vital part of the response. The charity has set up tents in which children can play with toys. “The joy is still there,” Ms Bujor said. “But the psychological effects will be terrible.”

Ms Bujor praised the work of churches in Romania in providing food, supplies, and accommodation. The people coming across the border now, she said, tended to be poorer compared with the first wave of arrivals, and did not have connections in countries to the west of Ukraine.

This dynamic of the crisis was also highlighted by the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of churches working to provide aid for the disadvantaged and vulnerable. Its general secretary, Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, said on Tuesday that churches had a “distinctive role” in responding to this.

At the same press conference, the director of international affairs of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Peter Prove, said that the response from local churches had been “incredibly warm and incredibly hospitable”. The WCC highlighted the fact that churches had been able to use existing structures to respond to the crisis.

In the UK, the Sanctuary Foundation is helping to support churches, individuals, and businesses as it prepares to welcome refugees under the visa sponsorship scheme (News,15 March). Its leader, Dr Krish Kandiah, told the Church Times on Monday that the Foundation came about out of a “desire to obey Jesus’s command to welcome the stranger”. More than 1700 churches have signed up to help to provide emotional and practical support to refugees as they arrive in the UK.

On Tuesday, the group launched an appeal for Mothering Sunday, to source items, including prams and toys, to be given to families coming from Ukraine. An Amazon Wish List, curated in partnership with Baby Basics UK, allows supporters to purchase an item that will then be delivered to families in need.

Mothers and children are expected to make up a large proportion of the refugees arriving in the UK. The BBC has reported on frustrations that prospective hosts have expressed about the inefficiency of the visa application process, but Dr Kandiah urged people to remain optimistic: “Let’s be patient, let’s be ready.”

Christian Aid and Mission Without Borders are among the organisations working to provide aid to people still in Ukraine.

On Monday, Christian Aid gave £1 million of the funds raised through the DEC emergency appeal to provide first-aid kits to civilians in areas suffering from bombardment. The funds have gone to the charity Crown Agents, which is working directly with the Ukrainian Ministry of Health to supply the kits.

Mission Without Borders (MWB), a non-denominational Evangelical organisation, is operating with partner churches in Ukraine to provide supplies and spiritual support. The Ukraine Programme Manager, Volodymyr Brychuk, said: “Christians of all denominations have been united in prayer as never before. We’ve opened a mighty second frontline where our main weapon is prayer.”

MWB has been operating in eastern Europe since the 1960s, and has partners around Ukraine. In the east of the country, one of the clerics with whom it works has 27 people living in his house; they are able to take shelter in the cellar during missile attacks.

In Sarny, a city on one of the main routes from Kyiv towards Poland, MWB has been running a soup kitchen with the help of local churches and businesses. When supplies became scarce, the church bakery provided 600 loaves of bread, and a poultry factory donated 100 chickens.

The joint work of USPG and the diocese in Europe (News, 11 March) continues across the continent. Funds raised in an emergency appeal are supporting the relief work of Anglican chaplaincies and their ecumenical partners in Poland and Hungary.

As there continue to be emergency needs at the borders of Ukraine, support is increasingly required further afield as people who have left Ukraine arrive in safe places across Europe. Anglican chaplaincies in Paris, Brussels, and even Bergen in southwestern Norway, have been supporting refugees from Ukraine.

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