Anglicans respond to global refugee crisis

By ACNS staff
Posted Sep 8, 2015

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglican churches and congregations around the globe are responding to the Syrian refugee crisis with offers of help, support, prayers and political lobbying.

In New Zealand, Anglican Archbishop Philip Richardson has joined forces with his Roman Catholic counterpart, Cardinal John Dew, to call on the government to double its annual refugee cap. Since 1987 New Zealand has capped the number of refugees it will receive at 750 each year – a number that has remained unchanged since it was introduced. The two leaders are now calling for that number to be increased, saying that there is a need for “an urgent collective response.”

“The response is government-led and can involve communities and churches working together,” they said in a statement.

Within the province, the Diocese of Wellington has said its congregations are ready to house and provide financial support for 40 families – around 160 people – as part of a “One family, one parish” initiative.

Bishop of Wellington Justin Duckworth has asked every congregation across the diocese to take responsibility for one refugee family. So far, about 40 out of 60 congregations have agreed to take part and more are expected to follow shortly.

“In the Diocese of Wellington we aspire to serve the ‘last, lost and least,’” Duckworth says. “We cannot have this as a core part of our identity and not respond to this overwhelming human tragedy in a practical way.”

He continued: “As a country we have been criticized for not doing enough to respond to the refugee crisis. We want to say loudly and clearly, as the Anglican Church of New Zealand, that we are prepared to help in a practical way.”

In Australia, Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies called on the government to develop a “comprehensive response” to the crisis.

“One of the most significant characteristics of a civilized society is the way it treats those who are the most vulnerable,” Davies said. “In our own country we have sought to address the needs of children, the intellectually or physically disabled, and the aged, all of whom suffer a disadvantage that is not common to the ordinary working Australian. However, as our world is larger than Australia, so our vision for vulnerable persons ought to be larger,” he said.

“Our TV screens have been awash with images of desperate people fleeing the war torn areas of Syria and Iraq. While it has been pleasing to see the way in which Germany’s Chancellor has responded to this humanitarian crisis with an open invitation to settle within her borders, not all countries have shown the same kind of generosity. However, the crisis is too great to be ignored – too great even for Europe to solve on its own.”

He has called on Australia to increase its refugee quota from 20,000 per year, saying: “I ask that urgent consideration be given to this, as well as other measures Australia could take to alleviate the suffering caused by the Syrian crisis.”

Their calls follow a statement by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby last week in which he described the crisis as “hugely complex and wicked.”

“There are no easy answers and my prayers are with those who find themselves fleeing persecution, as well as those who are struggling under immense pressure to develop an effective and equitable response,” Welby said. “Now, perhaps more than ever in post-war Europe, we need to commit to joint action across Europe, acknowledging our common responsibility and our common humanity.”

The four bishops in the Church of England’s Diocese of Chelmsford said that they and their churches “stand ready to play our part.”

In a joint statement, they say: “As national and local responses develop we will be delighted to work with willing communities (Christian, other faiths and non-faith) and civic leaders to offer sanctuary and welcome to any refugees who are admitted to our area, including providing accommodation. We are currently looking into practical measures to help the situation.

“There is a real and urgent need to act locally in the face of a global challenge, and respond to the U.N.’s plea for resettlement. This would be in keeping with the finest Christian and British traditions of championing human dignity and offering sanctuary to those fleeing persecution.”

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, is calling on Canadian Anglicans to adopt a three-fold approach to the crisis. In a joint statement with Adele Finney, director of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, he is calling for Anglicans to lobby politicians to demand easier access to the country for Syrian refugees with family already in Canada; for Anglicans to commit to providing 10,000 resettlement places for government-assisted refugees; and for Anglicans to contribute to the province’s relief agency.

“In times past Canada has taken extraordinary measures to welcome refugees in crisis,” the two leaders said. “It is time for us to do so again.”

Commenting on the haunting photographs of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler whose body was washed up on a beach in Turkey before being carried off the beach by a policeman, they said: “The Turkish policeman is us. Alan Kurdi is our child.

“We knew that in the first moment we saw their pictures in today’s newspapers. We knew that in our gut, and when our heart’s cry poured out through our eyes. Our senses involuntarily respond and urgently demand that we act individually and as a human community.”

Syria isn’t the only source of refugees. Many refugees are fleeing the conflict in South Sudan and are heading to neighboring countries, including Ethiopia.

The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East is actively engaged in supporting them. In an update on the website of the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, the Rt. Rev. Grant LeMarquand, the assistant bishop in the Diocese of Egypt, described some of the recent work that had been carried out, from providing food to helping restore weather-damaged churches, including the Holy Family Anglican Church which serves refugees in the Ethiopian town of Dima.

“These churches in the camps serve not only as worship spaces, of course, but as multi-purpose community gathering places,” LeMarquand said.

The diocese has also sent funds to churches in the Ethiopian towns of Tiergol and Matar to help them buy locally available food. “The local churches there have managed to buy food locally and get it to refugees awaiting ration cards,” LeMarquand said. “The Matar congregation also asked for some Nuer language liturgies, hymn books and Bibles. We gave them liturgies and two English Bibles, but we have no Nuer Bibles available in the country at the moment. We gave them one hymnbook and will get them more soon.

“We are told that the refugees in these three places have now been processed by the UNHCR and 1,000 a day are now being moved to a new camp called ‘Pinyudu 2′ – Pinyudu 1 is an old camp where almost 70,000 ‘permanent refugees’ already live.

“We have at least 10 churches in the Pinyudu area already – the new camp will have as many as 75,000 people, so we will need several new churches. As soon as the people are moved, our local clergy (refugees themselves) will be able to contact the newcomers, find the Anglicans and help them to establish new congregations.

“I know that there are at least a couple of South Sudanese clergy and some lay readers among those newcomers going to Pinyudu 2.”

The Church of England has issued a prayer for the refugee crisis:

Heavenly Father, you are the source of all goodness, generosity and love.

We thank you for opening the hearts of many to those who are fleeing for their lives.

Help us now to open our arms in welcome,and reach out our hands in support.That the desperate may find new hope, and lives torn apart be restored.

We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ Your Son, Our Lord, who fled persecution at His birth and at His last triumphed over death.



Comments (4)

  1. Douglas M. Carpenter says:

    In 1982 an organization of the Episcopal Church helped St. Stephen’s, Birmingham, bring a family of eight Cambodians, being held in a camp in Thailand, to our parish. It was a great experience for us all.
    Does the Episcopal Church currently have an active refugee resettlement program? – the Rev. Douglas M. Carpenter, retired, Birmingham, AL

  2. Byron Rushing says:

    In 1956 three were at least 200,000 refugees from Hungary. Have we heard from the descendants of the 30,000 1956 Hungarian refugees to the U.S.? #Hungary #refugees

  3. Duenna Jones Karner says:

    I give thanks for our Christion brethren of all denominations who have nobly struggled and sacrificed for the incredible numbers of Syrians, Iraqis, etc. esp. the under-reported Christian minority fleeing ISIS and sure torture and death. The surrounding countries have absolutely no room left and thank Our Lord that enlightened European nations are opening their borders to these persecuted fellow human beings. Thanks be to the A of C for speaking out in the House of Lords with a call to action. Let us pray our own new Presiding Bishop in the U.S. will rail against current US policy which accepts only 65,000 immigrants per annum and 0, yes, zero refugees at all from the current Middle East Crisis. As a teenager, my home church in the Midwest, in a rural community of 15,000, chaired by 2 women, enlisted 40 church families to sponsor 1-3 Vietnamese “boat people” at a time (in their homes) from refugee camps in Thailand. Each refugee required a “bribe” of $5000 to leave, then transportation costs to this small Midwestern town. These hard-working folk learned English, took vocational classes, got jobs and immediately began saving money to bring the next relative over. over 6 years 250+ Vietnamese refugees were sponsored by my church, Several opened small businesses with relatives, others had local jobs, and about 80% faithfully attend our church. Over time many moved to larger Vietnamese communities, particularly Detroit and San Diego. However, the 25 refugees and their families that my family sponsored kept in close touch and some visited each summer. Of those who stayed in town, my parents were able to attend the baptisms, confirmations, weddings, and HS and college graduations of many of the next generation. When my mother, one of the 2 original sponsors of the programs died at a young age of a terribly painful cancer, our family was astonished to welcome 85 family members from Detroit and the West Cost in addition to over 50 local members of our Vietnamese family to her wake and funeral. She made such a tremendous impact as a Christian, not only on these former refugees, but also set an example of self-sacrifice to her fellow church members who followed her lead into what was a fear-filled experiment for them as small town merchants, factory workers and farmers, but also showed me and my sisters what it was to “feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit those in prison.” For what are those in refugee camps but hungry, naked and in prison? I watched as a single family impacted hundreds, a single church, thousands, because 2 women said “This cannot continue while we have beds and food and love in abundance.”
    The Bishop of Wellington has asked each parish to take on one family. One. We Americans are in general more wealthy and spoiled than we imagine. Households have multiple cars, every family member has a smart phone, every household has the internet, cable TV plus who know what other electronic games and services, all for our convenience and ease and entertainment. We eat every out of season food know to man, guzzle fossil fuels, have 10 times more clothing than we need or can wear, our landfills are full of our throwaway mindsets and what Episcopal rector boasts of a 100% tithing congregation? Or a growing congregation? Or an evangelizing congregation-the average Episcopalian invites someone to church once every 37 years!!! If as Jesus said, the second most important commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves, in fulfilling that everyday we would be, like his disciples, selling all we have, at least living only on what we need, and supporting our beloved brethren with no homes, no clothes on their backs and no food in their children’s bellies.
    We as a family have been privileged to sponsor 3 different children on 2 continents through World Vision. For a mere $30-50/month over the years these children have been fed, educated and been given adequate medical care in difficult places and situations. In each case, at least once we were able to give each family a one-time gift of $500-$800. We were astonished to find that what was barely sacrificial to us as a “Christmas” gift revolutionized these families standards of living forever. Whether it was the purchase of a sewing machine, a bicycle, a he and she goat, corrugated metal for the only roofed house in the village it provided the security and a livelihood not only for our child but for his or her family. And each of those families were so grateful they “paid it forward” to others in their villages, improving life for many others. Our generosity out of our plenty does wonders: our generosity out of our sacrifice does miracles. Lives are not just saved but redeemed. And we are changed by the grace of The Holy Spirit, seeing with our loving Father’s eyes and working with our Savior’s loving hands to feed, to clothe and to heal. And we experience the gifts of the Holy Spirit as we give: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. And as our communities see these qualities in us as we work together as the world-wide church to change the world they will want to join us.
    But who will lead us? Not our government? Our presiding bishop? A bishop urging his churches to adopt one family each? How many families in 4 million Syrian refugees? Do we have that many churches left? A parish priest, retired perhaps, who says this is my calling now and I will speak to every parish that will have me to take or 10 families? Or maybe it will once again be two woman who say “While we have beds and food, no one will be naked or hungry or in prison.”

  4. Tom Joad says:

    Let us not forget the geopolitical reasons that got the world into this mess:

    Unless change is created in that realm, the pain and suffering will be repeated in this fashion again and again.

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