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Refugees welcomed at Sheringham church, £500 raised

Our Lady of Refuge and St Joseph Sheringham was delighted to welcome John and Shirzad – refugees from South Sudan and Afghanistan – to mark the beginning of the 2024 Refugee Week. It was also the second night of Eid Al-Adha, one of the most important Muslim festivals, remembering Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac at God’s command.

Abdullah, who was the chef, made delicious pots of lamb and chicken with rice, which were thoroughly enjoyed by all present. Abdullah had to work that night, so he was unable to join us, but there was great appreciation for his delicious food and the extension of hospitality to all.

The evening was organised by Angela Sandell and Michele Otway in conjunction with Andy Goff of Solace Partnership. Andy and his team work with unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people and run a number of houses to support independent living for looked-after young people, enabling them to learn valuable life skills, get an education, find safety and security, and have an opportunity to heal from their traumatic experiences. There are also fun activities such as sailing, drumming, camping trips, and trips to London. We heard personal accounts from John and Shirzad, including facing violence and attacks on the journey, hardship and hunger, becoming slaves, enduring the loss of family members, and having limited or no contact with their families at home. Their histories made for difficult listening, which educated us all. In some countries, religious persecution was also an issue. Faith is a crucial part of the identity of the young people, and they are supported in this by the local church and mosque. Andy was also able to explain the complexities of the asylum system and answer questions.

These young men hope to pursue their education and follow careers in the army and journalism.

The event was supported by a wide range of local communities, including Church of England, Methodist, Baptist, as well as community singing groups, charity volunteers, and representatives from other parishes. Everyone who attended was moved and grateful for this opportunity. All ingredients had been donated, and there was a voluntary collection – over £500 was raised for School of Joy, a charity working in Jerusalem with both Christian and Muslim children.

Pictured above, on the left and right, are John and Shirzad, and below, Angela Sandell with Fr Trindade, Parish Priest.