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Images of Aylan, a toddler who was drowned with his mother and brother as their family tried to escape violence in Syria, have brought the plight of refugees into painfully sharp focus in recent days. But Episcopal Relief & Development, an agency of the wider Episcopal Church, was already responding to the crisis by reaching out to similar agencies in that area of the world.

According to the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), more than 381,000 refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe in 2015, half of this number from Syria.  Between April 2011 and July 2015, 348,540 Syrians applied for asylum in Europe. The large influx of Syrian refugees into Europe is challenging host countries, some of which are also sheltering people displaced by conflict and instability in Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea and other countries.

According to the Anglican Communion News Service, St. Margaret’s Anglican Episcopal Church in Budapest, Hungary, part of the Church of England’s Diocese of Europe, is on the front line of the Syrian refugee crisis, with tens of thousands of asylum seekers passing through the city each day en route to Germany via Austria. German authorities have announced that anybody fleeing the conflict in Syria who reaches Berlin will be granted refugee status.

During the weekend, members of the parish gathered at the city’s Keleti International Train Station to prepare and distribute aid packets to the refugees.

“There were about 25 to 30 of us in all, everyone was enthusiastic and eager to help,” the Rev. Frank Hegedus, the local chaplain and area dean, and a priest of the Diocese of Los Angeles, said in a report on the Diocese of Europe’s website. “We felt that such simple things could make the biggest difference in the short term, although we also knew that much more would need to be done over the coming days and weeks.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, head of the Anglican Communion, said in a statement on Sept. 3: “There are no easy answers and my prayers are with those who find themselves fleeing persecution, as well as those who are struggling under immense pressure to develop an effective and equitable response. Now, perhaps more than ever in post-war Europe, we need to commit to joint action across Europe, acknowledging our common responsibility and our common humanity.”

Taking action to help

In the United States, Episcopal Migration Ministries has been monitoring the situation and suggests three things Episcopalians can do to take action:

  • Volunteer with one of EMM’s local resettlement partners to welcome new Americans. In the Diocese of Los Angeles, IRIS (Interfaith Refugee & Immigration Service) is the EMM partner: visit iris.ladiocese.org.
  • Join the #RefugeesWelcome global social media campaign urging governments to welcome refugees to their countries.
  • Sign the White House petition asking President Obama and the U.S. government to pledge to resettle at least 65,000 Syrians by 2016: visit 1.usa.gov/1L6zh9l.
  • Continue to pray for all those displaced by violence and conflict.

In addition, contributions to Episcopal Relief & Development’s Disaster Response Fund will help them aid the refugees; for information, visit episcopalrelief.org.

— Adapted from ENS, ACNS and Episcopal Relief & Development reports.

 

A litany for victims of the Syrian conflict

We pray for those damaged by the fighting in Syria.

To the wounded and injured:
Come, Lord Jesus.

To the terrified who are living in shock:
Come, Lord Jesus.

To the hungry and homeless, refugee and exile:
Come, Lord Jesus.

To those bringing humanitarian aid:
Give protection, Lord Jesus.

To those administering medical assistance:
Give protection, Lord Jesus.

To those offering counsel and care:
Give protection, Lord Jesus.

For all making the sacrifice of love:
Give the strength of your Spirit and the joy of your comfort.

In the hope of Christ we pray.
Amen.    

— Church of England Prayers for Syria