Poetry, prayer and music for the Middle East
An evening of song, poetry and prayer in Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic and English helped to raise more than £1,700 for the Jesuit Refugee Service’s Aid for Syrian refugees. The Call to Prayer with neighbours from the Middle East took place at Farm Street Church in central London. It brought together poets, singers and musicians from a variety of traditions from the Eastern Rite and Western Churches, as well as friends from the Jewish and Muslim communities.
Among the musicians who took part were Fr Aphram and the Choir from the Syrian Orthodox Church and Mr Abdul Salam Kheir, an oud player and singer of classical Arab song. Singers from the Melkite, Maronite and Chaldean Churches also provided music, as did the Gospel choir, Soul Sanctuary.
Speakers at the evening at Farm Street included Sarah Teather MP and Fr Dominic Robinson SJ (below) who had recently returned from a visit to Lebanon where they had witnessed Jesuit Refugee Service projects aiding Syrian refugees. JRS wanted to show him how some of the £26,000 raised so far by the parish community was being spent.
“My most overriding impression is of the ever growing tension hanging over the region which has created greater and greater immediate needs," he said. "The sheer number of Syrians trying to enter Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan is of staggering proportions. And reports of Lebanon closing its border to Syrians and the violence ensuing has created even greater fears.”
One of the key works supported by funds raised at Farm Street is the education and integration of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.“We had the great privilege of visiting a wonderful education project in Bourj Hammoud, north of Beirut," Fr Dominic explained. "For the past two months, 250 Syrian children from ages 5-16, driven out of their country, have been able to attend this new school to learn Arabic, English and French, Maths and science, vital to move into the Lebanese education system. The day we visited the children seemed joyful, full of energy, and the teachers so focussed and upbeat. It truly is an incredible project put into place in such a such a short period of time."
Fr Dominic added that closer discussion with JRS staff highlighted the real needs of the region. “What is the greatest challenge here? I asked. All agreed the greatest need was for more social work and psychological support to deal with violence, abuse and the challenge of reintegrating Syrians into Lebanese society. In addition to this, there is great need for space for children to play, proper classrooms, and computers."
JRS staff continue to provide emergency aid in the city centres of Damascus, Homs and Aleppo – field kitchens, clothing and bedding, basic healthcare support, hygiene kits. Thousands of families in war-torn Syria are still being provided these basic vital human needs.
Photos copyright: picture-u.net