USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is a predominantly Anglican charity founded in 1701 that shares God’s love through practical action. Its programmes have a deep impact because they are run by local churches that are embedded in the communities they serve – communities that have often been overlooked.
“It is a great honour to select and promote my first Bishop’s Lent Appeal in Lichfield Diocese. As I’ve learned about past Lent Appeals, I have become so aware that they are the result of thousands of people in parishes across the Diocese working together to contribute positively to the good of Christian and non-Christian, nearby and far away.”
“And so I appeal to you again this year to open your hearts and wallets in generosity as we focus on the needs of refugees and asylum seekers; strangers, aliens and even angels maybe; certainly all people made in the image of God.”
We have all been shocked and appalled by the images of refugees in the media in recent years fleeing Syria, risking and losing life crossing the Mediterranean while looking for safety in Europe. And we meet those seeking asylum from other oppressive and murderous regimes in Africa and the Middle East.
The lucky ones may be safe, but even once in the relative safety of Europe, they are often left destitute because they have no right to shelter, food or the dignity of using their skills to work and contribute to society while due process assesses their claim.
This year’s Lent Appeal helps to tackle the urgent and the ongoing. Through USPG, we will support the immediate plight of refugees arriving in Greece. And working with our own Transforming Communities Together partnership, we will support projects working with asylum seekers in our own region.
Around 62,000 refugees and migrants are currently stranded in Greece. While a third are now in apartments, hotels or with host families, 40,000 remain in pre-fabricated containers and canvas tents which provide little protection from cold weather and which weren’t designed for long-term accommodation.
Meanwhile, refugees continue to arrive each week and this puts further pressure on an already stretched system in Greece. For example, on the island of Samos, a centre designed to host 850 people is currently hosting almost 2,500 people in lightweight tents intended for summer camping.
Little wonder Fr Malcolm Bradshaw, Senior Anglican Chaplain in Greece, describes the situation as a 'tinderbox’. Over-crowded and confined conditions exacerbate tensions and anxieties, inflamed by the uncertainty and slowness of the asylum system. There have already been reports of fires, violence and riots involving both refugees and local residents.
Within this environment, USPG’s partners Medical Intervention (MedIn) provide primary health care and psychosocial support to refugees, including essential medication, hygiene items and infant formula. MedIn have a mobile clinic to reach the most vulnerable refugees more effectively.
Transforming Communities Together, the shared ministry of Lichfield Diocese and Church Urban Fund, thanks God for all the existing work with refugees and asylum seekers across the diocese and is keen to support parishes extend their ministry in this area. In November 2014, they worked with Tearfund and Boaz Trust to run the ‘Asylum and the Church’ conference, helping congregations to know more about the issues and build links with organisations across the diocese which are providing care and support.
TCT also secured CUF funding for refugees and asylum seekers to meet regularly at the Wolverhampton City of Sanctuary drop-in, and is a partner in Walsall Borough of Sanctuary, assisting in a recent arts performance to challenge negative stereotypes. James Henderson, TCT’s development worker, has run awareness sessions in churches and the community, explaining the important role church groups bring to the care of refugees and asylum seekers. The Common Good Fund is contributing to the inspirational work of Sanctus, in Stoke.
Bishop Michael asks, “Is there a local project supported by members of your church, any part of whose work includes asylum-seekers and refugees?” To nominate that project as a beneficiary of his Appeal, use the form below or email to tell us more. Many have done so, and a compilation of those stories is available here.
Later in the year TCT is hosting a one-day conference reflecting theologically on asylum in its contemporary context, to be run by the Children’s Society, the beneficiary of last year’s Lent Appeal. Register your interest now by email.
How you can support the Appeal
by supporting Lent Appeal events in your parish or deanery;
or by Gift Aid if you can to increase the value of your donation at no cost to yourself. You can donate through your local parish church, using the justgiving website;
or by texting Text: Lent98 £ (insert amount) to 70070 (eg. Lent98 £10 then send to 70070). Text messages are free to send on all networks.
or by cheque (payable to “Bishop of Lichfield’s Lent Appeal”) posted to The Bishops’ Lent Appeal, Bishop’s House, 22 The Close, Lichfield, WS13 7LG. If you are able to GiftAid it, please also print, fill, sign and return the form from the leaflet.
for all forced to travel in search of safety and a better life, particularly for refugees and asylum seekers; for all those who are working with them – through USPG, the Diocese ofEurope, and locally with TCT and local churches.
Inform us of any local project known to your church, whose work includes refugees and asylum-seekers. Invite a representative form TCT or USPG to speak to your parish or deanery; work with local parishes or ecumenical groups; mulitipy your generosity with a Lent Lunch, coffee morning, or other fundraising activity.
Use this form to tell us about a project that members of your church support that benefits refugees or asylum seekers.
Tell us the name of your church and the name / location of the project.
The deadline for nominations is Easter Day.
This year, Lent begins on Wednesday 1 March and ends on Easter Saturday.