The priest on the front line of the Anglican church’s work with refugees in Europe has told a consultation in Cologne how he first became involved in this aspect of his ministry.
“I was going to do the Wednesday service at St Paul’s Church and passed
through the central square in Athens,” the city’s Anglican chaplain, the
Revd Canon Malcolm Bradshaw, said.
“To my surprise I saw an encampment
of 200 Syrians.” After taking the service, he said, “I walked back and
wondered through the encampment and began to speak to them; and this was
the first sight of this great movement of refugees into Europe.”
Later, when the Bishop in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, made a parish
visit to Athens, they visited one of the detention centres in Athens.
“We were both deeply surprised and shocked at what we found,” he said.
Later, he was to hear that three refugees died at the detention
centre in one of the coldest weeks of the year. “These people had died
simply as a result of the lack of facilities,” Canon Bradshaw said. The
Anglican chaplaincy was asked to help and he broadcast a message to the
English-speaking community in the city asking for clothes, telephone
cards, shoes, and whatever else could be delivered to the centre. . .
“Suddenly, from chaplaincies throughout Europe and churches within
the UK and private donations began to flood in our way,” he said. “There
was a little bit of a crisis in diocesan house as to how to manage
this. As a result we linked up with USPG and we became partners in
facing the refugee crisis and how to administer the money.” He said that
it was not a job for “bumbling do-gooders.”
In the early days they looked for ways to support migrants that were
just passing through Greece. . . “These were just a transient people who
were just passing through the country with no intention of staying in
Greece,” he said. But with international borders beginning to close in
February, “we were into a very different game with refugees absolutely
There are now 600,000 such refugees in the country.
Canon Bradshaw was presented with an MBE (Member of the Most
Excellent Order of the British Empire) – one of the UK’s civil honours –
by the Princess Royal, Princess Anne, at Buckingham Palace in June for
his work on the refugee crisis. His story was just one of a number of
experiences shared at a Diocese in Europe consultation on the refugee crisis jointly organised by diocese with the Anglican Alliance and USPG at the Kardinal Schulte Haus in Cologne, Germany.
In addition to Anglicans from the Diocese in Europe, the consultation
is hearing from members of the US-based Episcopal Church, the Church in
Wales, the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East’s Diocese of
Cyprus and the Gulf, and the Church of England’s Diocese of Canterbury.
Other participants include representatives from the Roman Catholic
Community of Sant’Egidio, the Jesuit Refugee Service, the
Lutheran World Federation, the Swiss Evangelical Alliance, the UNHCR,
and the Church Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME).
While most of the participants are from, or work in, Europe, they
were left in no doubt that the world is facing a global refugee crisis.
“This is not a European refugee crisis,” the CCME general secretary,
Doris Peschke, said. “Everyone talks about the European refugee crisis,
but this is a global refugee crisis. We have 65 million displaced
persons. It is the biggest number since this has been counted.
“It is a huge number of displaced persons who can no longer go to the
place that they used to belong and where they had lived for many years.
Out of these, some 21 million – one-third, approximately – are
international refugees. Two-thirds are inside their countries.
“That means inside Syria, inside Iraq, inside Afghanistan, inside
Ukraine – a country we don’t talk about so much because most of the
Ukrainians outside the country are not considered [to be] refugees yet.”
She said that while governments around the world had increased
funding to the UNHCR, they had not done so to the amount necessary to
deal with the crisis.