London churches prepare to welcome Syrian refugees
Churches Together in Westminster has secured the agreement and encouragement of Westminster City Council to resettle 50 Syrian refugees in central London. The announcement was made by Fr Dominic Robinson SJ at the end of a Carol Service at Farm Street Jesuit Church in Mayfair. It was held to support the suffering Church in Syria and Iraq and helped to raise more than £2,000 for Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
The places for refugees in the capital will be provided with assistance from private landlords in the Christian congregations and the community organising group Citizens UK, with full funding from the European Union. The candlelit Carol Service featured traditional lessons and carols sung by the Schola Cantorum of the London Oratory School. It was attended by Miss Nicola Iles, who was representing HRH the Prince of Wales' Household as his international development secretary.
Farm Street Church's Aid for Syria project not only raises funds for the Jesuit Refugee Service and Aid to the Church in Need for use in their respective work with refugees both in and from Syria; it also aims to raise awareness and provide opportunities for prayer for the people affected by the current conflicts. Its shrine focuses on kidnapped Jesuit Fr Paolo dall'Oglio SJ and Fr Francis van der Lught SJ, who was murdered in Homs in April.
“The response from the packed congregation was exceedingly generous, donating £2,067.68 towards Aid to the Church in Need’s work supporting Christian refugees in Iraq,” says Patricia Hatton of ACN. “In the glow of candlelight, Christmas readings, prayer and song were a wonderful preparation for the great feast of the Nativity. The ethereal beauty of the voices of the Schola Cantorum of the London Oratory School, accompanied by the thrilling power of the brass ensemble and organ, made it an evening to remember.
"The testimonies of courage and faith from Syria and Iraq were a reminder of the hardships that many Christians today are enduring for their faith. These people – young and old – are facing this Christmas in tents and temporary accommodation, having been forced from their homes by Islamist terrorists. Our gratitude and thanks go to everyone who joined us for this very special evening of Christmas solidarity.”