"UNBEARABLE" read the headline. It was September 3rd and along with almost every other newspaper the Daily Mirror featured the horrific image of a young boy washed ashore on a beach in Greece. The boy was Aylan Kurdi. Hours before his father Abdullah struggled in vain to hold onto his three year-old son as the vessel that they thought would to carry them to safety capsized in the Mediterranean. That night Abdullah lost his wife and both of his sons. As another headline writer wrote, Aylan was a "tiny victim of a human catastrophe."
In the last year over 15 million people have become refugees in the Middle East alone. These families were forced to flee their home in fear of their lives. More than 3 million are children. Europe now faces the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II.
Over the last months, many of Chapel St's supporters and partners have been moved to action. As horrific scenes played out on the evening news and we woke to startling pictures in our papers, the Chapel St team decided that we must play our part. With the generous support of our donors, we launched For Refugees (www.forrefugees.uk). This new Chapel St initiative will encourage churches and communities groups around the UK to welcome and support refugees. Two weeks ago we hosted a consultation in Parliament where Richard Harrington MP (Minister for Syrian Refugees) briefed church and charity leaders on the government's response to the current crisis. Over the next months we will promote a range of practical projects to equip local communities to give refugees fresh hope and a future.
As Ben Webster (Head of Emergencies at the British Red Cross) writes, "The world is at a turning point. Protracted conflicts have led to a world at war and millions in need… Unending violence and conflict mean people will continue to flee their homes and undertake perilous journeys in search of safety… Only when the guns have fallen silent will people be able to return to their homes and rebuild their lives." Ben Webster (Head of Emergencies, British Red Cross)
All of us hope and pray for the day when those guns fall silent. In the mean time we cannot help but respond to the crisis on our doorstep. As with all our projects, Chapel St exists to build community and in 2016 we are determined to play our part in building communities For Refugees. I hope that you will join us.
To find out more about the For Refugees watch this short video and visit the website:
If you would like to make a donation to For Refugees you can do so here. Please be sure to specify your donation is for ForRefugees.