BY Peter Diamond | January 25 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


MPs ask Catholics to pray for refugees after Lebanon visit with pontifical charity

Two Scottish MPs have asked Catholics to ‘keep refugees in their prayers’ after they returned from a visit to Lebanon with pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

SNP MPs Brendan O’Hara and Stephen Gethins visited refugee camps in Lebanon as members of the UK parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief.

The objective of the January trip was to assess the needs of vulnerable religious minority refugees and develop recommendations to combat issues they face.

Brendan O’Hara, MP for Argyll and Bute, said: “There can be few more humbling experiences than spending time with desperately poor refugee families, many with small children, particularly in the depths of a harsh Lebanese winter.

“Whether they were housed in the makeshift camps or in tiny, cramped rooms in the town, their stories were all very similar; fleeing for their lives at short notice and now unable to return, forbidden from working and totally dependent on charity.

“On the feast of the Epiphany we were honoured to join Archbishop John Issam Darwich and his remarkable team of volunteers at St John the Merciful Table in the Bekaar Valley, where they feed 400 needy people every single day. For most it would be their only meal of the day.

“This is just one of the projects funded by Aid To The Church In Need who also provide financial support to many Christian families who do not qualify for UNHCR relief and who otherwise would be destitute.”

The MP, who is SNP spokesman for media and culture, added that ‘just because the refugee crisis doesn’t dominate the news, doesn’t mean it has gone away.’

Mr O’Hara also urged Scottish Catholics to keep the refugees in their prayers.

“There are an estimated one and a half million refugees currently in Lebanon and they still need our help,” he said.

“I would urge all Scottish Catholics to remember that the majority of us are from refugee families who had to flee oppression and hunger and in desperate need of shelter.

“Today, our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East are being forced out by a combination of war, terrorism and religious oppression and without Aid To The Church In Need, many of them would have nowhere to turn.

“That is why it is so important that Scotland’s Catholic community continues to provide financial support to this wonderful charity.”

Neville Kyrke-Smith, national director of ACN UK, said that such parliamentary visits show how charities provide ‘vital help for those so often ignored or side-lined by government agencies.’

“The support of faithful Catholics and of all Christians in Scotland and elsewhere can make such a difference,” he said. “Support for the presence of Christians in our biblical homelands is key not just for them but for the religious and political balance of the Middle East.”

Stephen Gethins, MP for North East Fife, said the experience was ‘very moving’ and ‘gave me a sense of perspective about what is important and meaningful in life.’

He added: “I am very grateful to Aid to the Church in Need for organising my recent visit that took place over the Christmas recess.

“It was truly humbling to hear some of the personal stories of those affected by the conflict and having the chance to see for myself some of the work that is being done to help those regardless of their faith and background.

“It is sometimes easy to forget that we still face the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War and the challenges faced by families are very real.

“The assistance provided by Aid to the Church in Need and other charities is crucial to the survival of those forced from their homes in the most dreadful circumstances.”

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