The Syria conflict has generated one of the largest refugee crises since the Second World War. There are 4.1 million Syrian refugees outside the country, as well as 7.6 million people displaced inside Syria. More than 200,000 people have lost their lives in this conflict. According to the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, Syrians make up the largest proportion of those who have been seeking to reach Europe by boat in 2015.
Syrians are among many nationalities seeking refuge across the globe, this is not a new story. Refugees from countries including Iran, Iraq, Eritrea, Sudan and Afghanistan are driven to find protection in European countries. We have refugees and asylum seekers already in London who equally need the compassionate embrace of the church. This is an international tragedy that requires an international response. This is a human tragedy that has already provoked a compassionate response from people across London and the UK. A tragedy into which we must respond;
‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25: 35-40
We are only at the beginning of a global refugee crisis. It is not just a question of responding to the current wave of displaced people entering the European Union but devising long-term strategies for huge population movements not confined to the Middle East. The immensity of the crisis should not, however, immobilise us. The Christian community in the Diocese of London must do what it can and I am very grateful indeed to the Bishop of Stepney and Andy Burns for spearheading this serious and considered response to such heart-breaking human misery.
The Diocese of London commissioned Capital Mass through the awarding of a grant, to co-ordinate and draw together local and diocesan wide responses into the immediate and long term needs caused by and brought to our attention through, the Syrian Refugee Crisis.
Angela Afzal Refugee Response Coordinator (currently on maternity leave)
In 2015 Capital Mass appointed Angela Afzal to be our Refugee Response Coordinator. Angela brings over 13 years of experience of working with refugees and asylum seekers in London; as an ESOL teacher, working in a day centre and as an Immigration lawyer. She has also enjoyed the opportunity of welcoming asylum seekers into her church community and discovering how much this enriches the life of the church and each other.
Angela will focus on 4 main areas:
- Practicalities – generating practical, compassionate responses which make a difference; offering welcome, orientation, integration and hospitality to refugees who arrive in London
- Partnerships – forging significant alliances to amplify our impact
- Politics – using our lobbying power as an insistent voice for refugees in need
- Prayer – ensuring that our response has deep roots