The Syrian refugee families who have settled in Norfolk under the Syrian Refugee Resettlement Scheme have become much better established over the course of the past year. Julie and I are hosting another private event for them all here at Bishop’s House in August, and for the volunteers who have helped them settle. The dedicated staff team at Norfolk County Council working with them have been very attentive to their needs. The privacy of these families (who have suffered so much) has been important in helping them rebuild their lives. I am hopeful that, in the light of the success of the scheme, we may receive another small group of such refugees, since the need has not lessened even if it is no longer front page news.
The Syrian Refugee Fund has been well used to enable costs to be covered which are not part of the Government scheme, and a significant number of grants have been made, all with a designated officer signing off applications. As I reported some months ago the generosity of so many people has meant that we have been able to extend the use of the scheme to assist other refugees in Norfolk who are not here under the Syrian Resettlement Scheme.
Every penny donated has gone to refugee families themselves and I am grateful to those who have given their time to manage the fund appropriately and vet applications. Some funding has been used to enhance the social interaction such refugees enjoy, adding to their quality of life and making them more confident in such new and different surroundings.
While the Fund remains open for donations, we are not actively seeking additional funds at the moment but attempting to use what we have wisely and constructively. But a time may come when a renewal of the Appeal would be appropriate.
Thank you again to so many who have been so generous, including those who did so anonymously and whom I have not been able to thank in any other way.
Blessings and gratitude.
The vast humanitarian crisis in Syria and elsewhere which has led to thousands of refugees arriving in Europe concerns us all and has touched the hearts of many. The horrors and indignities that so many refugees suffer are terrible to contemplate. How can we respond?
Perhaps the accumulation of millions of individual acts of compassion and generosity can change things, and even change us. While we cannot do everything that doesn’t prevent us doing something. Already the Churches and many Christian people have urged our Government to respond compassionately and said that we can be counted on to give support.
Here in the Diocese of Norwich we are seeking to do three things:
We are gathering a list of properties which would be large enough to accommodate two families.
This will supplement the information already coordinated by Sanctuary Norfolk, an organisation of faith groups (including our own Mothers' Union) which has been working for several months to encourage our local authorities to offer places for refugees here.
Please send any offers to the Bishop of Norwich's PA, Coralie Nichols, by email to email@example.com who will keep a record.
The Leader of Norfolk County Council set up a Refugee Taskforce on which the Bishop of Norwich serves.
As information becomes available we will ensure this is shared more widely among the churches as well as other agencies in our diocese.
It will be essential for a good infrastructure to be in place for refugees when they arrive so that translation facilities, education and orientation in a new culture are undertaken. This includes giving them opportunities for worship and religious practice.
We recognise that parishes and individuals may want to contribute funds to be used exclusively for the resettlement and support of any refugees in our diocese.
So we have set up an account with the Norwich Diocesan Board of Finance for such funds to be deposited.
Those who want to give to help refugees elsewhere in the world may wish to contribute to Christian Aid.
Norfolk and Waveney has a long history of welcoming migrants and refugees, known locally as strangers in centuries past. Those strangers have enriched our lives here. More recently Norwich has received Congolese refugees under the UN Gateway programme. We seek to be hospitable. We hope the Government will be increasingly generous in the provision which it makes. We believe many people in our churches will give a heartfelt and generous welcome to those fleeing persecution and hardship and coming to us in great need.
Please pray for peace and justice and do what you can to contribute to countless individual acts of compassion.
The Diocese of Norwich launched a Just Giving campaign to assist Syrian refugees arriving in Norfolk. Funds have been, and are being, used to support Syrian families through such things as the provision of furniture and white goods, the cost of translation services or travel expenses and other necessary expenditure.
See our Just Giving page to see how much was raised.
To give to Christian Aid to help refugees still overseas, go to their website here.
Below is a film that highlights how individuals within the Diocese are helping refugees, asylum seekers and foreign nationals with language classes.
(from the Church of England website)
With our strong connection with the Diocese of Lulea in North Sweden, here you can read their report on the 'Work with Asylum Seekers and New Arrivals in the Parishes of the Church of Sweden 2015-2016'.
Emma Berkman, Communications Officer in the Diocese, also describes how the parishes acted immediately to make the arrival as loving as possible.
Here are links to various articles about refugees and refugee support, which we have published. (Please note, that some of these articles may have links in them which are no longer active).