Anglican Church Diocese of Wellington Refugee Statement
Anglican Church Diocese of Wellington says it will take responsibility for housing 160 refugees
Church puts in place a ‘One family, one parish’ policy and urges the government to be generous in its rethink of the country’s refugee quota
Congregations from the Anglican Church’s Diocese of Wellington have had meetings throughout the weekend and have said they have the capacity to house and financially support 40 families – approximately 160 people – in response to the current refugee crisis.
There has been an overwhelming positive response to a call by the Right Reverend Justin Duckworth, Anglican Bishop of Wellington, for each congregation across the Diocese to take responsibility for one refugee family. So far 40 congregations have agreed to take on a family with more expected to follow suit in coming days. There are 60 congregations in the Diocese which covers most of the lower North Island.
Bishop Justin says the approach of asking each congregation to take responsibility for one family was a practical way to respond to the refugee crisis which has seen the greatest displacement of people from war and conflict since the Second World War.
“In the Diocese of Wellington we aspire to serve the ‘last, lost and least’. We cannot have this as a core part of our identity and not respond to this overwhelming human tragedy in a practical way,” Bishop Justin says.
“We are pleased that the government will later today announce an increase to our refugee quota and we urge a generous response.
“As a country we have been criticised for not doing enough to respond to the refugee crisis. We want to say loudly and clearly, as the Anglican Church of New Zealand, that we are prepared to help in a practical way. If resources are the limiting factor in our government’s decision over what level to increase the quota by, we are committing to take over the wellbeing and support of 40 families.
“This tragedy requires a humanitarian response, economic cost should not be the primary concern in our country’s decision in how to act.”
The commitment to house refugee families came following a letter that was sent out by Bishop Justin on Saturday (5 September) to church leaders across the Diocese of Wellington. The letter was read out at services yesterday with church members providing feedback to minsters.
Participating churches have said they are committed to do what’s required to support one refugee family per congregation. This will include:
• Providing a warm and friendly welcome to the country
• Providing initial housing for a family and eventually helping them find long term accommodation
• Helping integrate them into their new community (assisting them to set up bank accounts, paying bills etc)
• Assisting with childcare and schooling needs
• Helping address initial medical and counselling needs
• Language learning where required
• Assisting in finding employment
• Financial assistance towards resettlement
The Diocese of Wellington says they will work closely with expert agencies to ensure a complete level of support and care is provided to families.
The commitment from the Diocese of Wellington is a practical response to calls from Cardinal John Dew of the Roman Catholic Church and Archbishop Philip Richardson of the Anglican Church, to increase to the number of refugees taken in by New Zealand.
Bishop Justin said he is proud that the Church of New Zealand is uniting on this issue and he is aware that other denominations, including the Baptist Churches of New Zealand, are currently working on their own practical response to the refugee crisis.
Letter that was sent to congregations in the Diocese of Wellington:
As the reality of the world’s refugee crisis has been brought into clear focus in recent days, we have all been moved with compassion for those whose situation is so desperate that they are prepared to give up all that they know and to risk their lives to find safety in a foreign land. As governments struggle to deal with the enormity of the wave of humanity fleeing war and persecution it’s hard for us to know how to respond meaningfully. As individuals it’s difficult to see what difference we can make, however, as family, I believe we have the opportunity to make a response.
I’m writing to you to invite you as a congregation, a parish and a diocese to join together to offer to share a portion of the abundance that we enjoy with those people on the road and sea seeking a taste of the safety that we enjoy in our land. What I’m challenging us to consider is making a collective undertaking to provide the support necessary to settle one refugee family in each of our parishes. Each of us might be able to provide support in the form of accommodation, money or practical support and our individual contribution might not seem like much but acting together we can achieve enough to make a real difference to real lives.
Please prayerfully consider this challenge. Please tell the leadership of your parish of your support for such an undertaking. It’s my hope that I will hear over the next 24 hours from each parish about the commitments you are in a position to make. I know that your prayers will be joined with mine as we ask for God’s mercy to be known in the lives of the world’s refugees.