The London Churches Refugee Fund raises money to give small grants to organisations assisting destitute refugees and asylum-seekers.
Our annual speaker meeting took place on Wednesday 19th September 2018 at Kensington URC. The keynote speaker was Sarah Teather, UK Director for the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). We are most grateful to the church, and to its Secretary Izumi Nishizono, for their generous hospitality.
Chair of the LCRF Trustees, Revd Chris Brice, welcomed everyone to the meeting and introduced the work of the Fund. To date, LCRF has raised over £200,000 cumulatively and disbursed this through small grants to frontline agencies. Our work remains a vital lifeline for refugees and asylum seekers experiencing destitution in our capital.
Keynote speaker Sarah Teather talked of Hospitality in a time of Hostility. Asking how we can continue to create places of hospitality in a climate of toxicity, and how we can avoid imbibing that same toxicity ourselves, she described how JRS has returned to its vocation of accompanying, serving and advocating for refugees in this country and worldwide. In doing so it has been renewed and refreshed.
She likened this to the story of Elijah and the widow. Despite her own destitution, the widow shared what little she had with the 'refugee' who came to her and who was also a prophet. The widow, like her meal jar, was refreshed by offering hospitality: and so we can discover that it is the refugee who has so much to offer us.
Download and read a more complete summary of Sarah's speech by clicking here.
We were very fortunate on this occasion to have the presence of Shurooq Abu elNaas, a singer from Sudan. She sang two songs from her native culture, to warm applause.
Shurooq recently received status in the UK and is eager to get her musical career back on track. Anyone wishing to make contact with her for a concert or other event can do so via LCRF.
After the musical interlude the meeting continued with a panel of Tommy Cloherty from Housing Justice's Hosting Scheme, Cécile (one of their guests and who had just received her biometric card), and Mohib Ullah from RefuAid. Introducing him, LCRF Trustee Robina Rafferty showed a recent Observer article in which RefuAid was named as one of fifty "new radicals" making society better in the UK.
Tommy described the work of 'hosting' refugees and asylum seekers, often while they are waiting for decisions on their claims and can so easily fall into destitution. Cécile spoke movingly of her own experience and of the great help she had received. Housing Justice currently has around 30 guests but it all depends on capacity, and he would welcome anyone wishing to know more about hosting an asylum seeker to get in touch.
Mohib in turn outlined how RefuAid works by providing courses that help refugees and asylum seekers into higher education, or sometimes to requalify professionally. Some 60 have now gone on to university. Both Housing Justice and RefuAid have received grant support from LCRF.
The meeting was closed by Trustees Martin Ashford and Stella Jeffrey, the latter reading prayers by our fellow-trustee John Murphy. John himself had recently been badly hurt in a road accident and was unable to be with us in person.
Overall, the evening was a great opportunity to share time together, to reflect on the hostile environment that the government has created, and to learn more about the work of LCRF and some of its client agencies. Many thanks to all who attended, spoke or asked questions.