Refugee Crisis - A Local Response

14/09/2015 12:33 pm

Bishop Richard Moth with a Eucharistic Minister during Mass

The Catholic Church's response to meeting the needs of refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria is being coordinated locally through the dioceses. With this in mind, we thought it'd be useful to speak to one of our bishops about how he is going about responding to the situation.

Bishop Richard Moth, as the newly installed Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, has a diocese on the south coast, not a million miles from a number of ports and points of entry into the UK. He has responded swiftly to the crisis and has released a pastoral letter detailing the key points. In essence he's undertaking a diocesan audit of people and groups that can provide the following:

  • Accommodation: Short-term, long-term or emergency
  • Skills: What can people offer? Language tuition, legal knowledge and assistance
  • Identify what's available to help refugees in the local community and feed it in to parish priests

In Arundel and Brighton, two key members of the diocesan team have been given the role of co-ordinating the local response - Aidan Cantwell, the Justice and Peace adviser, and Mary-Jane Burkett who overseas the St Cuthman's diocesan retreat centre and already works with the existing refugee project in Brighton.

"What's key is that you don't end up with a scatter gun approach." says Bishop Moth. "Any help has to be directed the right way, then our local co-ordinators can liaise with local authorities, process the information that's coming from the government and information from the Bishops' Conference - they can be the focus."

Much has been written and said about those seeking safe haven. Bishop Moth keeps it simple:

"The situation is dire. It always strikes me that if people are willing to go to the lengths they are to get away, the situation at home must be indescribable. So we must be in a position to offer the best help we can but whatever help we offer has to tie in with the way the government and local authorities are addressing this otherwise it's not going to be effective."

The strategy will clearly evolve after the information gathering process but for the time being, listen to our ten-minute 'Catholic News' podcast with Bishop Moth talking about all the issues and challenges around formulating an initial local response.

Duration: 9m 44s


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Related Link

Bishops' Conference Web section for information and materials relating to the refugee crisis.