Churches join call for Norfolk action on refugees
Church members and leaders joined a packed meeting of over 200 people at the RC Cathedral in Norwich last night calling on local councils to act on their pledges to welcome 50 Syrian refugees to Norfolk. Keith Morris reports.
The meeting, organised by umbrella organisation the Norwich Refugees Welcome Here group, heard passionate speakers from a local Mosque, churches, aid agencies, refugee support groups, trade unions and political organisations.
Among the speakers was Norwich Cathedral's Canon for Mission & Pastoral Care, Rev Andy Bryant, who told the meeting: “Let us make Norwich a Fine City because of the quality of the welcome we can offer. We will not let ourselves be divided but will be a community that works together.
“I would love to see Norwich become a city of sanctuary and create a culture of welcome and the most vulnerable and the most marginal people will always know that they are welcome here. That is what the Church of England and all the churches across the city want to see.”
Julie Bremner, who chaired the meeting, said: “The meeting will reflect the view of many people that politicians are not doing enough to help these desperate people that include children. Worse that that there are a large number of myths and lies being spread that are scapegoating and blaming refugees, migrants and Muslims for the issues we face today. It is crucial we respond to this by standing in solidarity against attempts to divide our communities. The appalling treatment of refugees across Europe and staggering rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes must be challenged.”
Statements from both Norfolk County Council and Norwich City Council were read out at the meeting saying that they were committed to the process but were dependent upon central government finances and organization to see it progress.
Meanwhile, Christian groups across Norfolk are doing what they can to prepare for the refugees’ arrival. Diocese of Norwich Mother’s Union president, Marguerite Phillips, also speaking on behalf of the Sanctuary Norfolk coalition, said: “We are pressing for a response from the government and Norfolk County Council on when something might happen. We are also praying constantly for refugees wherever they are and wherever they come from.
“There is a lot of willing support in Norfolk and our members are prepared to do whatever is necessary, but a good deal of what is needed already seems to be in place.
“What has been wonderful has been the coming together of different faith groups. It stemmed initially from Muslim and Jewish families living next to each other whose children played together. It has been an enriching experience so far with meetings in a synagogue and a mosque. Now it is the turn of the Christians and a public march has been organized for Palm Sunday, March 20, starting from the RC Cathedral of St John the Baptist to the St Peter Mancroft church,” said Marquerite.
Meanwhile, a fund set up by the Bishop of Norwich, Rt Rev Graham James has already raised almost double its target of £5,000
Pictured above are some of the speakers from the Rally for Refugees held at the RC Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Norwich last night.