As the refugee situation in Europe has worsened over the past number of days, local church representatives have spoken out about the crisis.
There has been a massive out-pouring of goodwill in the local community, and charity groups have witnessed an upsurge in donations.
The Rector of St Patrick’s Church of Ireland in Jordanstown, Rev Nigel Baylor has said that funds will be donated to the refugees through the Bishops’ Appeal.
“In the Church of Ireland we have the Bishops’ Appeal, which collects donations for catastrophes such as the current refugee crisis. This will be our immediate response to the situation. I have been to the central organiser for the Bishops’ Appeal to get more envelopes for the congregation to make donations. As a church we would encourage people to do what they can for the charity effort,” he said.
Reverend Robert Bell, the Minister at Ballyclare Presbyterian Church, also encouraged local people to do what they can to help with the refugee situation.
“As Christians we have a responsibility to do what we can to help. In this current time the words of Jesus have come to mind, ‘You were a stranger and you took me in.’ I think that we should follow this example. Amongst Christian people generally there is a real concern for refugees, and an awareness that a lot of the refugees from Syria are Christians. The Presbyterian Church will be working with agencies such as Christian Aid and Tear Fund to donate to the crisis. Prayers were said during our service last week for the refugee situation,” Mr Bell said.
Father John Forsythe of St Mary’s on the Hill Parish in Glengormley reiterated these sentiments, saying that the people of Newtownabbey and indeed further afield should be doing what they can to help the refugees.
“The Pope has asked for the people on the continent to open their doors to the refugees, and to accommodate these people. So far nations in Europe have been taking in people, but it will be a while before the refugees are here. When they do arrive in mass numbers I would encourage people here to open their homes to them,” he said.
A meeting is due to take place in the hall at St Bernard’s Church tonight (Thursday, September 10) at 7.30pm to discuss the best ways of helping the refugees.
“Is donating money the best way we can help them, or is it to send out blankets or to give them accommodation? All of these things will be discussed at the meeting. The Pope has asked us to take practical action, so we need to decide what the best way of doing this is. I would encourage everyone to do what they can to help, whether that is making donations or volunteering their time to help with the charity appeals,” Father Forsythe added.
Over the past number of weeks, the issue of refugees in mainland Europe has been at the forefront of many people’s thoughts.
Masses of people have fled war torn Syria, while others have escaped persecution in Iraq and North Africa.
Many have been arriving on the Greek Island of Kos, while others are stranded in Hungary and Calais.
The image of the body of a young Syrian boy being washed up on a Turkish beach was a stark reminder of the reality of the situation and spurred many people into charitable action.