Updated: Apr 4, 2022
Last Updated: 4/4/22 4pm
In response to the crisis that is evolving in Ukraine we have written this blog article that includes ways in which as a church community we might start to respond. The first thing that we can all do is pray, and if like many of us you don't know how to pray you will find guidance on that further down. One thing that we are exploring is how we could host families from same community in Ukraine together as a Church, again you can read more on this further down. Even if you can't host a family yourself you may be able to support others in the church doing this, we are also exploring how we partner with St John’s School who are currently applying to be a school of sanctuary. Whatever way you get involved, this is truly a time to live out Jesus' command to love our neighbours.
Refugee Sponsorship and Long-Term help and Support
The Sanctuary Foundation hosted a call on 16th March for anyone interested in sponsoring refugees. You can watch here: Ukraine Humanitarian Sponsorship Information Evening - YouTube
You can register on the government website here: Homes for Ukraine – Homes for Ukraine – Local Sponsorship Scheme for Ukraine (campaign.gov.uk)
We are also collating the details of everyone who is registered with the government scheme, we will then use this information to pass on the details of any Ukrainian Refugees we are made aware who need sponsorship. To let us know you have registered please complete this form here: Ukrainian Refugee Support · ChurchSuite Forms
A number of people within our church are considering housing Ukrainian Refugees and if you would like to talk to someone about this, please speak to Charlie & Jill Carr or Ann & Dan Dooley.
Ann Dooley has written some notes on the Sanctuary Foundation session:
We were urged to step up and show how welcoming the UK can be. Make the most of the opportunity. The ball has been passed to the UK citizens. Start somewhere!
This is an emergency evacuation. The situation is moving fast. Need to get sponsors registered.
Sponsors will be checked and there will be some monitoring for those coming in.
Sponsoring a refugee(s) will be ‘a game changer in terms of family life’.
There are lots of organisations and charities that will help.
It takes a community to be welcoming to a refugee.
One Ukrainian lady shared an insight that it has been traditionally difficult for Ukrainians to get a UK visa. Now that visas will not be required, people will want to come to the UK but not to be here forever. They will have leave to remain for 3 years, with access to education, NHS, access to jobs and benefits.
“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” Our response won’t be perfect but the need is there.
The Diocese of Leicester is helping to co-ordinate the sponsorship of Ukrainian refugees, and on Wednesday 30th March they held a Zoom call for those interested in sponsoring refugees. Charlie Carr has written a summary of the call here:
We are proceeding with the government sponsorship scheme , there is no alternative
The local council can see who has signed up to the scheme
The local council will do host DBS and inspection of property
Subsistence for refugees may be available
Job hubs will be set up
Hosts should be prepared to agree 'ground rules'
It will be mainly women and children and some elderly
It will be those without international connections
Culturally they will not want charity, generally a proud people
Consider additional house insurance , for non family members
The 'Sanctuary foundation' will be partner in this process
Pray, lament and grieve with people
These people will be traumatised , worried about loved ones , may receive bad news when they are with hosts
Will require Dr/ Dentist / schools, we will try and coordinate these things
Children will need to play , consider toys etc
Be aware of having news on , add to trauma of refugees etc
Be aware of regulations around safety of babies and children's equipment , car seats, prams, cots etc
Citizens UK will be partners in Diocese plans, they aim to bring 1000 people to the UK before Easter
The most urgent thing we can do is pray. We pray for the families of Mary (whose brother, Elijah is still in Ukraine) and Alla (whose family are still in Ukraine).
The Church of England has produced resources here: Praying for the Peace of the World | The Church of England
24/7 prayer have produced resources here: Pray for Peace in Ukraine - 24-7 Prayer International
There are two safe and secure ways where your gift can support those most in need: 1) Disasters Emergency Committee’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal: Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal | Disasters Emergency Committee (dec.org.uk), 2) Anglican Diocese of Europe Emergency Appeal Donate (raisely.com).
On Sunday, 22 people from St John’s signed a letter which we sent on behalf of the church to key MPs urging them to change the UK Visa policy for Ukraine refugees. We received the below response from Jon Ashworth’s office.
Thank you for contacting me about UK assistance for Ukrainian refugees. As of 11 March, as least 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine, with Poland alone hosting at least 1.5 million refugees. The Government must step up the UK’s humanitarian support, getting crucial supplies into the country and to cities like Kyiv while we still can and supporting neighbouring states, such as Poland, who are hosting most of the refugees. While many Ukrainians will want to stay close to home, especially those who have had to leave relatives behind, some will want to come to the UK to join family or friends and we should be helping them. As you will know, the Government is running an expanded family visa scheme so that those with relatives in the UK can apply to join them. However, the Home Office is issuing these visas at a rate of about 250 a day – at a time when other countries are supporting hundreds of thousands a day. This scheme also does not apply to those who have other connections to the UK, such as those who may have worked or studied here in the past and have connections who can support them. The Government has said it will open a humanitarian sponsorship scheme, to allow individuals, charities, businesses and community groups to sponsor places for Ukrainians wanting to come to the UK. However, there have been no further details about this scheme. Our experience from similar schemes also shows that it can be a slow and complex process. I believe we need to provide a swift, simple and safe route for all those fleeing Ukraine who want to come to the UK. I am therefore calling on the Government to introduce an emergency protection visa, which would allow anybody fleeing the conflict in Ukraine to come to the UK if they want to, subject to quick biometric and security checks on route. An emergency humanitarian visa would give people the right to work and access public services, and it would allow us to keep track of people arriving and any specific support needs. I hope the Government will seriously consider this proposal. We have a huge responsibility to work alongside other European countries to provide sanctuary to those fleeing war in Europe. We must ensure that this actually happens in practice and that bureaucratic hurdles, delays and obstacles do not get in the way of people across the country showing their support for those who have fled the appalling war in Ukraine. I will continue to follow developments closely. Yours sincerely, Jonathan
Together with Refugees Campaign
On Sunday 20th March some of the children from our church created an orange heart as part of the 'Together with Refugees Campaign'. The Nationality and Borders Bill, which was first brought forward in July 2021, is nearing its final stages in Parliament. The stated aims of the Bill are to make the immigration system fairer and more efficient whilst being strict on illegal immigration and tackling people smuggling. However, charities and NGOs, including the United Nations Refugee Agency, fear it would penalise the majority of those seeking asylum in the UK and undermine international protections for refugees.
To mark their solidarity with refugees, the Bishops of Leicester and Loughborough, the Rt Revds Martyn Snow and Saju Muthalaly respectively, as well as faith and community groups all around the county and country, are sharing photographs of orange hearts and symbols of support with the hashtag #TogetherWithRefugees on 21 March 2022.
In addition, more than 1,000 faith leaders have signed a letter to the Prime Minister, asking for safe routes to seek asylum to be established as a matter of urgency. They urge the Prime Minister to be ‘compassionate and ambitious’ in opening schemes such as family reunion, routes for unaccompanied refugee children in Europe and resettlement.
The letter calls on the Prime Minister to show ‘political leadership’ and promote ‘compassion, human life and dignity’. Faith leaders have asked the Prime Minister to meet to discuss their concerns.
More information about the Together with Refugees campaign can be found at: http://togetherwithrefugees.org.uk/
Supporting Refugees Already in Leicester
Rachel Lowe writes:
As many of us consider our response to refugees from Ukraine my heart turns to the refugees already in Leicester.
We already have lots of refugees in hotels in the city waiting for housing. Our church is supporting where we can through liaison with the intercultural pioneer minister from the diocese.
Currently they need help with English classes on a Friday afternoon. This would involve supporting their English teacher with conversation skills. We are also looking at a cooking session on Sunday afternoons at church to allow 2 Kurdish families to cook food from their own culture. Their children will not eat anything but chips at the hotel. As the mums cook, we need volunteers to play with the children and someone to chat with the dads.
If you would like to support in anyway with the compassion team doing this please email firstname.lastname@example.org
For further details about how you might respond, the C of E have produced an excellent toolkit, which you can read about here: Ukraine toolkit for Churches and Individuals CofE v1-150322.pdf (churchofengland.org) and see the C of E website: War in Ukraine: responding | The Church of England.