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Ukriane Rewfugees Miek Royal picbanner.JPG
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World News

Churches Together in England liaising with Orthodox churches to support Ukraine's refugees

by Donna Birrell

More than 86,000 Ukrainians have been granted access to the UK since the war began nine weeks ago. However new government figures show that only 27,100 have arrived here.

Multiple reports say some families are unable to travel because not all relatives have approved visas.  

The government suggests the difference between applicants and arrivals under its scheme, is due to people changing their minds after applying. 

However, churches are among the forefront of organisations and charities supporting refugees when they do arrive in the UK. 

Bishop Mike Royal is General Secretary of Churches Together in England (CTE) which is helping co-ordinate support for people arriving from Ukraine.

He told Premier Christian News: “We've set up a Ukraine refugee roundtable for some of our churches and some of our agencies, to pray together, to stand in solidarity, to support each other, to share good practice, and also share resources. What we are really beginning to recognise is the importance of getting behind our Orthodox churches, and the Catholic churches as well, who are particularly based in Ukraine. For us that has been really important."

Bishop Mike said CTE is impressed with support being provided by the Assyrian Church of the East in London which has a hotel which is housing some refugees in a bid to keep families together. 

He also saud there is a more co-ordinated response in Wales to the situation with Churches Together in Wales working closely with the Welsh government: 

"Wales is a sort of place of sanctuary, but here in Britain there is a more scatter-gun approach. So we're trying to get behind our eastern Catholic churches and our Eastern Orthodox churches who are in this country and support them in the work they're doing, because they have the contacts with Ukraine. Working through the conduit of Orthodox churches is the way to go, because they will make sure they've got that wrap-around pastoral support in the most general sense, as well as the spiritual sense, for both communities. They've got that cultural support that refugees need suddenly arriving in a new environment like London."

Latest figures from the United Nations say 11 million people have fled their homes in Ukraine to escape the Russian invasion.

The United Nations says that while 5 million have left for neighbouring countries, more than 6 million are thought to be displaced inside the country itself.

Bishop Mike said that the scale of the crisis means communities and churches must prepare for the long-haul : "This isn't a short term thing, I think we're going to be here now for a number of years. I'm sad to say that, but as we look at what's unfolding in Russia, we actually need to take a long term view. So I think the system will ease and hopefully, the government will make it easier for Ukrainian refugees to come into Britain. There are certainly pockets of good practice that we can follow and certainly at Churches Together in England, we're getting behind that. 

"Please pray for traumatised families. That for me, is the really important thing. But also we really need to pray for the churches and those who are hosting as well, because it's not easy suddenly, to receive people into your home. But please do pray for our Orthodox churches on the ground and the traumatised families from Ukraine."

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