Bishop of London and capital’s churches welcome Afghan refugees
The Bishop of London has paid tribute to the courage of Afghan refugees, as churches across the capital continue to work on the front line in welcoming thousands of people arriving from the country. Working in concert with Welcome Churches, a charity dedicated to welcoming refugees into their local church, parishes have raised teams of volunteers to provide help and support for families as they transfer from quarantine hotels to more permanent accommodation in the city.
This month, St Paul’s Church in Marylebone welcomed over 70 people at a nearby hotel, where they will be housed for up to a year. Clergy and a team of volunteers assisted hotel staff in preparing a welcome area for refugees, as well as unpacking donations of baby essentials, clothing and toiletries. The church has continued to provide friendship and guidance since their arrival, including helping families complete essential forms that will allow them to access ongoing support.
The St Paul’s team included a parent support worker from the parish school, Christ Church Bentinck CE Primary, and a school parent, originally from Afghanistan, who helped with translating. The church’s youth worker, members of the congregation and children from the church also made up the volunteer team.
The Bishop of London visited with several families in Marylebone this week, before meeting with members of the St Paul’s clergy and volunteer team. She paid tribute to the refugees’ courage and reiterated that churches across the diocese will play a vital role in helping them in the coming months.
Bishop Sarah said:
“Many of us have been deeply touched and saddened by images of thousands of Afghan families forced to flee their homes in recent weeks. I cannot imagine what it feels like for those newly arrived in our city, many of whom have nothing except the clothes on their backs. We have a responsibility to make them feel welcome and to help them settle in in any way we can.
“The Church has always played special role in supporting communities of all faiths and none in the most challenging of circumstances. I am hugely proud of the St Paul’s team and the many other churches across London who have so ably risen to the challenge to continue this tradition. As a diocese and a city, we stand ready to help these families rebuild their lives.”
Revd Clare Dowding, Rector at St Paul’s and Area Dean of Marylebone, said:
“It has been extremely moving to see how much the families appreciated the support and welcome, especially those who had lost luggage or had to leave with literally just the clothes on their back. We have been struck by the very basic needs for baby essentials, formula, bottles, nappies – as well as a large number of children and adults who don’t have extra clothing. It has been lovely to see the church volunteers giving such a warm welcome and being good ambassadors in these very challenging circumstances.
“In addition to the wonderful volunteers at St Paul’s, we have also been supported by members of the clergy and congregation at The Annunciation, Marble Arch, who have worked in partnership with us from day one and have been very proactive in befriending families as well.”