Syrian Refugees Seeking Safety in Europe

Episcopal Relief & Development is engaging the Syrian crisis through support to agencies in Syria, to the Diocese of Jerusalem’s Holy Land Institute for the Deaf and in support of large numbers of people traveling out of crisis areas into Europe.  The agency is in contact with Anglican Communion partners through The Episcopal Church’s Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe and The Church of England’s Diocese in Europe, as well as interfaith partners such as Islamic Relief.


Episcopal Relief & Development Web Statement

October 6, 2015

Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting Islamic Relief’s efforts on the island of Lesvos, Greece, to provide critical emergency supplies as well as language and cultural mediation services to people traveling en route to mainland Europe.  The majority of people currently arriving on Lesvos are fleeing the Syrian conflict, adding to the number of travelers displaced by unrest in Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas.  Aided by Episcopal Relief & Development, Islamic Relief is supplying food, water, tents and cash assistance to those crossing the island, and helping people access and understand information about how to register with authorities and secure further travel.

“Refugees are still landing on the island, but instead of facing a grueling walk to register, many can now board buses run by local volunteers and international NGOs,” Islamic Relief’s website reports.  “In the main port, where refugees had been gathering, the government has started registering and taking people off the island. […] Large ferries carried thousands of people a day, working to clear the backlog of refugees trapped in limbo, waiting to continue their journey to safety.”

The usual population of Lesvos is approximately 80,000 people, and the influx of up to 2,000 displaced people each day has put a strain on local infrastructure.  Islamic Relief is working with local and international NGOs such as International Rescue Committee to organize necessary systems and provide relief and support for up to 1,000 exhausted travelers each day.

Also in Greece, the Church of England’s Diocese in Europe is working through Us (the relief and development agency of the Church of England, formerly USPG) and the Church’s Greek parishes in Samos, Leros and Athens to support reception centers and a hostel for displaced people with medical needs, in partnership with the Greek Orthodox Church.

Elsewhere in Europe, the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe is responding through local ministries in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland.  The Convocation has undertaken a mapping initiative to gather information on how parishes are responding in their own areas and what resources may be needed or available for further partnership.  Outreach ministries in tent camps and gathering places are providing hospitality and connecting travelers with information and services.

“Our Anglican Communion and interfaith peers are responding in many compassionate ways to the needs of those seeking safety in Europe,” said Nagulan Nesiah, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Program Officer for Disaster Response and Risk Reduction.  “We are participating in coordination calls to offer our support and expertise and anticipate that our involvement will increase over the coming months.”

Please continue to pray for all those fleeing violence and unrest. Contributions to the Syria Crisis Response Fund will help support relief efforts.


Episcopal Relief & Development Web Statement

September 15, 2015

Episcopal Relief & Development is engaging the Syrian crisis through support to agencies in Syria, to the Diocese of Jerusalem’s Holy Land Institute for the Deaf and in support of large numbers of people traveling out of crisis areas into Europe.  The agency is in contact with Anglican Communion partners through The Episcopal Church’s Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe and The Church of England’s Diocese in Europe, as well as interfaith partners such as Islamic Relief.

“Our relationships with Anglican Communion and ecumenical organizations enable us to contribute efficiently and effectively to the relief of those fleeing the Syrian conflict,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Vice President for Programs.  “These agencies are leveraging our support to meet critical needs for basic supplies, as well as language and cultural mediation to lower the anxiety of displacement and help people access available services.”

In Italy, St. Paul’s Within the Walls Episcopal Church in Rome operates the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center as its primary outreach ministry, providing a safe space for 200-250 individuals per day to access legal, vocational, medical and language services.  Episcopal Relief & Development support will enable the Center to expand its ministry to serve the increased number of displaced people seeking safety and assistance.

The Church of England’s Diocese in Europe plans to distribute emergency funds to churches in Greece, Italy, France and Hungary that are responding to the needs of displaced people for food, clothing, shelter materials and medical supplies.  The Diocese is reportedly working with Orthodox churches in these areas as well, which expands the capacity to ensure needs are met.

Islamic Relief is active on the island of Lesvos, Greece, where Syrians fleeing the conflict arrive at the northern town of Molyvos, closest to Turkey, and travel to the southeastern town of Mitilini in order to take the ferry to the mainland.  Arabic-speaking Islamic Relief staff, working with other organizations and local volunteers, are offering food and guidance to those arriving, including information about transportation options such as buses to save the 40-mile journey on foot.

Please continue to pray for all those fleeing violence and unrest. Contributions to the Syria Crisis Response Fund will help support relief efforts.

Previous Syria Crisis Updates:


Episcopal Relief & Development Web Statement

September 8, 2015

Episcopal Relief & Development urges prayers for all those displaced by the conflict in Syria, and particularly for those attempting the arduous journey to reach safety in Europe.  The agency is currently exploring potential collaborations with organizations active in transit countries, such as Islamic Relief in Greece.  Episcopal Relief & Development has also reached out to the Anglican Alliance and ACT Alliance regarding possible ecumenical partnerships in the region.

According to the UN 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 displaced Syrians is challenging European host countries, some of which are also sheltering people displaced by conflict and instability in Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea and other countries.

As the crisis in Syria enters its fifth year, an estimated 4.1 million people have fled the country, many taking refuge in Lebanon (1.1 million), Jordan (630,000) and Turkey (1.9 million).  An additional 7.6 million Syrians are displaced within the country’s borders.  Within Syria, Episcopal Relief & Development continues to support the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches in providing food and shelter for people displaced by the conflict.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, head of the Anglican Communion, said in a statement on September 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.”

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

  1. Volunteer with one of our local resettlement partners to welcome new Americans: http://bit.ly/EMMpartners
  2. Join the #RefugeesWelcome global social media campaign urging governments to welcome refugees to their countries by using the hashtag #RefugeesWelcome on your social media channels. 
  3. Sign the White House petition asking the President and the government to pledge to resettle at least 65,000 Syrians by 2016: http://1.usa.gov/1L6zh9l

Please continue to pray for all those displaced by violence and conflict.  Contributions to Episcopal Relief & Development’s Syria Crisis Response Fund will support relief efforts.

A Prayer for the 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