Churches have a responsibility to welcome Afghan refugees - Bishop of London

(Photo: Afghan Welcome)

The Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, has paid tribute to the courage of Afghan refugees as she visited a church in Marylebone which is supporting 70 people living at a nearby hotel.

Christian Today reported last week that churches around the UK are stepping up to help Afghan refugees housed by the government in 'bridging hotels'.

Around 8,000 Afghan refugees who worked for the British embassy in Kabul or with the British Armed Forces before being evacuated in August are moving from quarantine hotels into transition hotels in large family units across the UK.

A spokeswoman for London Diocese said St Paul's Marylebone "has assisted hotel staff in preparing a welcome area for refugees, as well as unpacking donations of baby essentials, clothing and toiletries".

"Since the refugees arrived the church has been helping families complete essential forms that will allow them to access ongoing support," she said.

She added that the St Paul's team included a parent support worker from the local Church of England primary school, Christ Church Bentinck, and a school parent, originally from Afghanistan, who has helped with translating. The church's youth worker, members of the congregation and children from the church also made up the volunteer team.

During her visit to St Paul's parish on Wednesday, Bishop Mullally stood alongside a banner reading "Welcome to the UK" in Pashto and Dari - the two main Afghan languages.

She said: "Many of us have been deeply touched and saddened by images of thousands of Afghan families forced to flee their homes in recent weeks. I cannot imagine what it feels like for those newly arrived in our city, many of whom have nothing except the clothes on their backs. We have a responsibility to make them feel welcome and to help them settle in in any way we can."

Also present during the bishop's visit were representatives from Afghan Welcome, the charity led by evangelical Christian, Dr Krish Kandiah, which is working with the Home Office to support Afghan refugees as they move into the transition hotels.

The Rector of St Paul's, the Rev Clare Dowding, who is also the Area Dean of Marylebone, said: "It has been extremely moving to see how much the families appreciated the support and welcome, especially those who had lost luggage or had to leave with literally just the clothes on their back.

"We have been struck by the very basic needs for baby essentials, formula, bottles, nappies - as well as a large number of children and adults who don't have extra clothing.

"It has been lovely to see the church volunteers giving such a warm welcome and being good ambassadors in these very challenging circumstances."

She added that another CofE church nearby, The Annunciation, Marble Arch, has also been "very proactive" in befriending Afghan families.

Churches in London Diocese are working in concert with Welcome Churches, a charity set up in 2018 to help local churches to support refugees.