The conflicts in Iraq and Syria have created an unprecedented refugee crisis in the Middle East. There are now more than 4.2 million refugees from Syria alone – greater than the total population of Wales! We can be proud that the UK is providing £900 million to those in the refugee camps. But we all need to do more! Jesus said “… for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me … Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:35-41 Our Christian faith and common humanity inspires and encourages us to show compassion to our neighbours in this horrendous crisis. Jesus’ parents were forced to flee from Bethlehem with him as a baby to Egypt. As God’s people in East London and Essex we stand ready to play our part. As national and local responses develop we will be delighted to work with willing communities (Christian, other faiths and non-faith) and civic leaders to offer sanctuary and welcome to any refugees who are admitted to our area, including providing accommodation. We are currently looking into practical measures to help the situation. There is a real and urgent need to act locally in the face of a global challenge, and respond to the UN’s plea for resettlement. This would be in keeping with the finest Christian and British traditions of championing human dignity and offering sanctuary to those fleeing persecution.
Stephen Cottrell Bishop of Chelmsford; Peter Hill Bishop of Barking; John Wraw Bishop of Bradwell; Roger Morris, Bishop of Colchester