20 Jun 2018

World Refugee Day

(Above image: The model was made by a young man who had travelled across the sea and eventually to Calais, and each figure is an actual person on the voyage he was on.)

A message from Bishop Robert for World Refugee Day in light of the treatment of the Aquarius rescue ship:

Migration is the biggest challenge facing the EU – bigger than Brexit. And it will be for years to come. The attitude of European authorities towards migrants has been increasingly geared towards proper management and security. In this they have been more successful than people generally realise. The number of irregular migrants arriving in Europe has fallen dramatically in 2018 compared with the period 2015-2017. This reduction has been achieved by a variety of measures such as strengthening the border force, Frontex, and co-operation with frontline states, including Italy.

Italy does carry an unfair burden for welcoming refugees. However, arrivals in Italy via the central Mediterranean migration route fell from 181,436 in 2016, to 119,369 in 2017 to just 12,105 in the first five months of 2018. In that light, the refusal of the Italian authorities to allow the MSF and SOS Mediterranean sponsored ship Aquarius to land is hugely upsetting. Those on board are human beings created in God’s image. Both as a matter of faith and of human rights they ought to have been treated as precious human beings not as problematic cargo.

The Diocese in Europe is deeply committed to the welfare of migrants and refugees. We are involved in the care of refugees in Italy and Greece. We are part of a humanitarian corridor bringing vulnerable migrants legally into Belgium. We are partnering with the Diocese of Canterbury and USPG to sponsor a refugee projects officer in Calais. Our motivation is natural human compassion, the love of Christ, and a divine mandate to care for the stranger and the refugee.

Lord God, we lift to you our government leaders, officials of the European institutions and the United Nations. Please provide insight and wisdom to ensure an effective response to the refugee crisis and to solve the underlying causes of conflict.

We give thanks for all in the Diocese in Europe who are working with refugees. Give us understanding, compassion and generosity of spirit.

Help us all to be open to the gifts which refugees share with us and to be inspired by their courage and their faith.

We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.


Also for this World Refugee Day, the Revd Carolyn Cooke (La Côte chaplaincy) has written this poem:


A Word of thanks… to you in exile

A Word of thanks… to you who have risked so much

A Word of thanks… to you who have left behind loved ones and now offer love and care to the likes of us, strangers who, God-willing, become friends

A Word of thanks… for the deep wisdom of your heritage and experience

A Word of thanks… for the creativity and vibrancy of your cultures, which we glimpse and savour

A Word of thanks… for your stamina to learn… new languages, new humour, new food, new systems, new rules spoken and unspoken, new views, new manners, new just about everything

A Word of thanks… for not giving up in the face of prejudice and misunderstanding

A Word of thanks… for not giving up on the troubling wait for papers that spell permission to stay, permission to breathe easy, permission to put down roots with equal rights as those around you 

A Word of thanks… for eliciting some good in us, sometimes, and being gracious and humble enough to accept our help

A Word of thanks… for your forgiveness and kindness towards us as we make mistakes and say hurtful things in our attempts to understand

A Word of thanks… for your honesty, for the vulnerable truth of your humanity, your dignity even as you deal with dreams of trauma while still dreaming of lighter days ahead

A Word of thanks… for your sense of humour

A Word of thanks… hunger for life

A Word of thanks… for your resilience

A Word of thanks… for your faith which inspires and challenges our faith 

A Word of thanks… to you in exile opening our eyes to so much truth and beauty  

So many words of thanks… still so much more to say…



World Refugee Day 20.06.18

Carolyn Cooke