Refugees’ lifejackets have been turned into a ‘graveyard’ outside parliament

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More than 2,500 lifejackets that were actually worn by migrants who crossed from Turkey into Europe were placed in front of the U.K.’s Parliament today to raise further awareness about the global migrant and refugee crisis. The project was created by various charity and humanitarian groups to correspond with a meeting of world leaders at the U.N. to discuss the ongoing crisis.

This year alone so far, at least 3,212 refugees and migrants have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.  Deaths are occurring more frequently this year than in 2015, according to the most recent figures reported by the International Organization for Migration.

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The installation — which was supported by refugee charities — intends to remind leaders of “the need for solidarity with refugees” and to encourage “international responsibility sharing”.

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Faith leaders call for revised refugee policy

 

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More than 200 leaders of faith communities have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, Theresa May calling for urgent changes to the government’s refugee policy, particularly to allow families to be reunited.

The signatories are headed by Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, who will give a speech on Monday in front of an audience of faith leaders and refugees to reiterate the letter’s demands.

Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, the former lord justice of appeal, has added her name to the letter, which is also signed by leaders and representatives of the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist communities.

The interfaith letter follows similar initiatives by 350 judges and lawyers, who wrote to the then prime minister, David Cameron, last October; 120 senior economists in January; and 27 humanitarian and refugee organisations, also in January.

Refugees’ life jackets are transformed into message of peace on Greek island

A bright orange peace sign appeared on a hillside on the Greek island of Lesbos on New Year’s Day, transforming a growing pile of life jackets discarded by refugees arriving on the island into a message to the world.

Dozens of Greenpeace and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) volunteers and local supporters teamed up to create the massive peace sign Friday on a hillside overlooking the small strait between Greece and Turkey that has become a main passageway for those fleeing to Europe.

Made up of more than 3,000 life jackets and built by dozens of volunteers, the sign is a way to honor those who have made the journey and to urge peace in the new year, according to Greenpeace.

Those involved in the project are calling for safe passage to those fleeing war, poverty and oppression.

Thousands of people arrive on the island of Lesbos daily, packed into flimsy rubber dinghies and wooden fishing boats. Most are refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East and Africa.

More than 1 million migrants and refugees have arrived in Europe by crossing the Mediterranean in the past 12 months. Another 3,700 people perished in the sea last year while attempting the crossing.

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The island of Lesbos in particular has seen a huge influx of people, in part because of its close proximity to the nearby Turkish coastline. More than 500,000 people arrived on the island in 2015 alone, but the small community has also been the site of unspeakable tragedies as some fail to make it safely to shore.

In October and November, so many bodies had washed up on Lesbos that the local morgue ran out of space to house the dead. Tragic scenes played out weekly as ad hoc rescue efforts led by local and international volunteers were unable to deal with the sheer scale of new arrivals.

As those who do manage to make it to shore quickly move further on into Europe, their life jackets stay behind as a growing reminder of the movement of people through the area, as well as the lives that have been lost.

The life jackets have been slowly piling up in a dump on the island, near the town of Molyvos. The peace sign was created on a hillside overlooking the dump.

Lifeboat Prayers – Praying for the refugee crisis with young people

prayer_spaces_logoDuring 2015, many thousands of refugees risked their lives (and many others lost their lives) as they sailed across the Mediterranean Sea in small boats. People do desperate things when their lives are in unimaginable danger.

This activity encourages students to think about refugees who are leaving their homes and precious possessions behind in order to escape danger. It encourages them to think about themselves, to reflect on their own homes and possessions and opportunities, and to imagine what it would feel like to lose almost everything.

Read more on the Prayer Spaces in Schools website.

Church of England Bishops write to Prime Minister on refugee crisis

This press release has been issued: Bishops call on Prime Minister to provide “meaningful and substantial response” to refugee crisis

17 October 2015
The Church of England today has published a letter sent to the Prime Minister in early September signed by 84 of its bishops calling for the Government to increase the number of Syrian refugees being resettled to this country “to a minimum of 50,000” over the next five years.

Referring to the situation in Syria as “one of the largest refugee crises ever recorded” the Bishops write that “a moral crisis of this magnitude calls each and all of us to play our parts.”

Calling directly on the Prime Minister to increase his current offer to accept 20,000 refugees over the next 5 years to 50,000 the Bishops write:

“We believe such is this country’s great tradition of sanctuary and generosity of spirit that we could feasibly resettle at least 10,000 people a year for the next two years, rising to a minimum of 50,000 in total over the five year period you foresaw in your announcement. Such a number would bring us into line with comparable commitments made by other countries. It would be a meaningful and substantial response to the scale of human suffering we see daily.”

In addition to “recognising and applauding” the announcements made by the Prime Minister the Bishops offer help from the Church of England in encouraging their churches to provide welcome, housing and foster care to refugees as well as to support the Government in its ongoing efforts.

In their letter the Bishops also called for the creation of a National Welcome and Resettlement Board, mirroring the successful work of such boards created by Government in response to past refugee crises in the 1950s and 1970s. Since the writing of the letter the board has been created with the Bishop of Durham serving as co-chair of the board.

Speaking on behalf of the bishops, the Rt. Revd. Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham said:

“The Archbishop of York recently said that the current situation has rightly been described as a refugee crisis but it is also a time of opportunity for us as a country and for our wider continent. The opportunity before us is to rise above narrow self-interest, however defined, and to embrace the highest parts of our humanity.

We recognise that both the Prime Minister and His Government responded to calls from the country for there to be a programme of resettlement and we are grateful to him for responding to those calls. However there is a real urgency to this issue with those increasingly being forced from their land as their homes are literally bombed into the ground. As the fighting intensifies, as the sheer scale of human misery becomes greater, the Government’s response seems increasingly inadequate to meet the scale and severity of the problem. It is disheartening that we have not received any substantive reply despite an assurance from the Prime Minister that one would be received. There is an urgent and compelling moral duty to act which we as bishops are offering to facilitate alongside others from across civil society.”

ENDS

The full text of the letter follows.

Rt Hon David Cameron MP

10 Downing Street
London
SW1A 2AA
10 September 2015

Dear Prime Minister,
Like you, your Government, and the people of our nation we are deeply concerned for the refugee crisis that we have to face together. We are grateful to you and your ministers for the conversations they have already held with the Archbishop of Canterbury and others around these issues.

We pray for the millions of people fleeing war and violence in one of the largest refugee crises ever recorded, and we remember those who have tragically died seeking sanctuary on European shores: those like Alan Kurdi, the three year old boy who heartbreakingly died and was washed up on a beach in Turkey.

It is a command in Judaism , “to welcome and love the stranger as you would yourself because you were strangers in the land of Egypt”. Followers of Islam are obliged to provide food, shelter and safety to the traveller. Christ himself and his family were refugees. We are reminded that in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral there is a 17th century notice which pays tribute to “the large and liberal spirit of the English church and the glorious asylum which England has in all times given to foreigners flying for refuge against oppression and tyranny.”

Such traditions and prayers must be joined with action. A moral crisis of this magnitude calls each and all of us to play our parts.

We recognise and applaud the leadership you and your government are showing in this crisis, both as one of the world’s top international donors and the recent announcement that the government will resettle 20,000 people over the next five years.

We stand ready to play our part as well. We will:

  1. Encourage our church members to work alongside the wider community in offering welcome, orientation, integration, sign-posting and support to all refugees who come
  2. Encourage, where possible and feasible, churches, congregations and individuals to make rental properties and spare housing available for use by resettled refugees.
  3. Promote and support foster caring among churches, congregations and individuals where appropriate to help find the homes needed to care for the increasing number of unaccompanied minors
  4. Pray for, act with and stand alongside your government, to rise to the challenge that this crisis poses to our shared humanity

From what we see in congregations across the United Kingdom we are confident that the country stands ready and willing to support the government to be even more ambitious as it responds to this historic crisis.

We believe such is this country’s great tradition of sanctuary and generosity of spirit that we could feasibly resettle at least 10,000 people a year for the next two years, rising to a minimum of 50,000 in total over the five year period you foresaw in your announcement. Such a number would bring us into line with comparable commitments made by other countries. It would be a meaningful and substantial response to the scale of human suffering we see daily.

We believe that should a National Welcome and Resettlement Board be established in response to the crisis drawing together civic, corporate and government leadership to coordinate efforts and mobilise the nation as in times past, such an effort would not be beyond the British people. A senior Bishop would gladly serve on such a board on our behalf and at your pleasure.

This letter is written to you privately at present. The College of Bishops meets in Oxford next week and will spend some time on Thursday 17th considering our practical response. If you were able to respond to me ahead of that date it would help our discussions.
Faithfully,

For a full list of signatories, go here, and scroll down

Worship resources for Refugee Crisis

Engage Worship have produced some worship resources linked to the refugee crisis:

We thought you would want to know that we’ve just uploaded a video which we hope will help churches engage prayerfully with the issues surrounding the European refugee crisis this weekend.  It is based on a song called ‘You are a Refuge (Arms)’ from RESOUNDworship.org‘s Ben Atkins, and features scripture and encouragements to pray, act and welcome.

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We also have a page with other ideas of resources and links for connecting your church with a worshipful response to this tragedy.