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/ 8 January 2020

Bishop Sarah speaks at London Churches Refugee Hardship Fund Meeting

Integrating people from other cultures into our communities should be a privilege we relish, says Bishop of London.

The Bishop of London has urged Londoners to recognise the opportunity for increasing diversity within communities, warning of the pitfalls of insisting on complete assimilation. Delivering the keynote address at the Annual Speaker Meeting of the London Churches Refugee Hardship Fund at St James’s Piccadilly, Bishop Sarah spoke of the challenge of destitute asylum seekers in the capital.

She underscored the Church’s place of “special solidarity” with displaced people, and set out possible solutions for helping refugees become members of London’s communities. Noting that churches and families can play a practical role in making people feel welcome by, for example, taking refugees into their communities and homes, the Bishop also stressed the importance of seeing the opportunity in embracing people from different cultures.

“We need to recognise the opportunity for increasing the cultural diversity in our communities”, she said. “The danger, even with our well-intentioned hospitality, can be that we expect other people to become totally assimilated into our cultural practices. Over time, cultural distinctiveness is gradually lost or at least unnoticed.

“However, there is huge potential to enrich our own communities. Integrating people from other cultures into our communities should be a privilege we relish.”

The Bishop also praised the work of the London Churches Refugee Hardship Fund, highlighting the desperate plight of many asylum seekers arriving in the UK:

“In light of increasingly adversarial government systems facing asylum seekers, over 25,000 have either died or are missing around the world, having tried to find other ways of escape. Sadly, people traffickers ruthlessly exploit the desperation people experience. But in the midst of this, the London Churches Refugee Fund points to a different story. A story of hope.”

Bishop Sarah was guest speaker at Tuesday night’s Annual Speaker Meeting of the London Churches Refugee Hardship Fund. The Fund makes grants twice a year to front-line church and community projects across London, working with destitute asylum seekers. Funding is used to purchase practical items for those in need, such as travel and phone cards.  It is also used to make critical one-off payments and provide emergency health packs.

The Revd Chris Brice, Chair of London Churches Refugee Hardship Fund, said:

“We are very grateful to the Bishop for highlighting the significant challenges faced by those who have arrived in the UK and have found themselves without a home, without friends and without the basic resources we all need. Destitution amongst asylum seekers in the capital is a challenge we all have a responsibility to try to put right. The London Churches Refugee Hardship Fund is run entirely by a volunteer Trustee work, and every penny raised goes directly to the projects in grants. We are therefore hugely appreciative of everyone who attended tonight’s event and who have so generously donated.”

At the last Grants Round, 28 Projects applied for grants provided by the Fund. Over 12 years, the Fund has distributed over £250,000 to 77 projects, many of which apply for funding every year.

Visit the London Churches Refugee Fund website.

Images below: Bishop Sarah delivering her address, representatives from the Croydon Refugee Day Centre & St James Piccadilly International Breakfast Club delivering presentations on how the Fund has supported them.


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