London’s parishes unite in support of refugees
Churches across the Diocese of London have joined together to show support for refugees from Syria and the Middle East during the recent crisis. Working alongside their communities and national charities, they are acting to raise money and run collections points for donations, with funds and much needed items being gathered to be sent directly to those in need.
Many of London’s churches are using their role as a central point for community life to co-ordinate spontaneous community reaction to the suffering of refugees, working to raise money in the short term and beginning to plan how they can provide support in the longer term.
Among the many churches that have started to offer help or aid to those in need is St James’s Piccadilly, where the congregation has been playing its part by raising money for Doctors of the World, a humanitarian charity which helps vulnerable people affected by war get the healthcare they need. In their first week of organising a collection after the Sunday service, St James’s Piccadilly raised £500 for the charity and has plans to continue collecting for them over the coming weeks. The money raised will go direct to Doctors of the World, who are currently in Calais supporting the refugees. They were chosen by the church community who wanted to send a message to refugees trying to reach London that they would be welcomed.
The work at St James’s with Syrian refugees has been going on for many months. In July, they hosted a UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)’s tent in the church yard as part of a part of a two-week installation called ‘Another Day Lost’. The tent and art work were created with the Syrian-born artist Issam Kourbaj, to symbolise refugee life and help raise awareness of their plight.
The Rector of St James’s Piccadilly, the Revd Lucy Winkett, is also part of Citizens UK’s campaign calling for every borough or local authority in Britain to take 50 Syrian refugees each. Lucy commented that:
“The current crisis in Europe is a challenge to cultivate compassion to combat fear. The situation starts to get very dangerous when something which was previously unacceptable becomes normal.”
In another part of the capital, Christ Church Kensington in West London has responded to the crisis by seeking to mobilise other churches, both in its own and neighbouring deaneries, to work together. Congregations and local communities are being encouraged to be politically engaged and sign petitions and to donate to relief agencies.
The church is helping practically by organising a collection of clothes and useful items for vulnerable women and mothers and babies to be sent to Syrian refugees in Turkey via Canon Andrew White’s network of churches and Samara’s Aid – which offers humanitarian aid to displaced people and refugees in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and the Middle East. The collection will be open for the next fortnight and there is already strong interest on the ground and a significant response from the local community.
The team at Christ Church is now working with other Kensington, Chelsea and Fulham clergy on innovative ways of raising money to benefit the refugees, such as a sponsored run in Hyde Park for church members at the end of October to raise much-needed funds.
Many churches in London have also been thinking about the long term and practical support that they can offer the refugees, all determined to stand side by side in welcoming them to London. The Diocese is working with local parishes to develop these plans and will share more information in the coming weeks.
Update, 7 October: we have partnered with four charities working with refugees to help meet the immediate need. Capital Mass are also working on shaping the Diocese’s long-term response to the crisis. Visit our crisis response page to find out more.