Refugee Crisis – Diocesan Response

Email from Anni Holden, Director of Communications, dated 14 September 2015 reproduced in full below:

Dear All,

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Bishop Richard has asked me to write to you to inform you of the Diocesan response to the Refugee Crisis. Chrissie Pepler, Community Link Development Officer, Karilyn Collins, World Development Officer and I, as your Director of Communications, met with both Bishops and the Archdeacon to discuss how we might respond if some of the government’s planned 4000 Syrian refugees each year were directed to Herefordshire and Shropshire. We also discussed how we might respond to other questions and needs.

The arrival of refugees was split between the two major counties. Shropshire Council is already on top of planning, with an officer already in post to lead a planning group. Chrissie Pepler and Bishop Alistair will concentrate on Shropshire and be in direct contact with the Council to see what it may require the people of the Diocese to do. We all agreed it was essential that we work with the local authorities wherever possible, so the welcome for desperate people can be organised together rather than having individuals ‘doing their own thing’.

Herefordshire Council is still deciding what to do. Councillor Johnson has been designated as the Lead member and will be pulling together a planning group. Karilyn Collins has been in touch with him already. Following our meeting, she will contact with him again, to offer The Great Hall at The Palace, for a meeting of the essential statutory and volunteer organisations, who will be invited to get involved.

In the meantime we are asking you, all the people and parishes of the Diocese of Hereford, to consider whether you, or someone you know, may volunteer for one or more of the following roles:

  • Befrienders – We will need people to ‘be there’ for anyone arriving from Syria, whether families or single and people of all ages. Be realistic in offering to do this as it will mean a commitment of time and flexibility.
  • Accommodation – Can we identify empty houses or flats, vacant holiday accommodation or suitable room in your home. A list of potential space would be very useful.
  • Arabic Speaker – If you can speak Arabic that would be very useful and we would love to know who you are.
  • School Spaces – It would be helpful to know where our schools have space for new children.
  • Support Workers – We will need people who have experience in working with families and traumatised people. We need medical volunteers and those with expertise we have not identified but which you think might be useful.

If you can, please share this e-mail as widely as possible in the parishes, both within and outside the church. We are asking volunteers to let me know what you can offer, under which heading, as soon as possible. Please be as generous as you can. We expect to get some weeks notice of potential arrivals.

We are also asking all parishes to pray about this terrible situation. You may choose to hold a special service, a vigil or just to use the Church of England prayer for Refugees which you will find on the front page of the Diocesan website We would like the prayer used widely and we will provide a sheet for reproduction and distribution in the immediate future. I will email it to you as the most efficient way of reaching all parts of our very large Diocese and suggest you photocopy onto a heavier coloured paper if possible. Just do your best!

You may wish to donate money which we suggest you direct to the agencies working on the ground in the Middle East and in Europe. We suggest Christian Aid, Tearfund, The Red Cross and Save the Children.

Anni Holden

Anni Holden
Director of Communications
The Palace, Hereford HR4 9BL
01432 373342 or 07889 186316