Churches to launch sanctuary project for asylum seekers

By agency reporter
April 28, 2009

A church-based coalition is to be launched today in Blackburn to encourage faith-based aid projects for refugees and asylum seekers.

The Sanctuary Project will unite expertise from the Church of England, the Methodist Church and the Children’s Society to work with one of the largest groups of asylum seekers and refugees in the north of England.

The Project, to be launched at Wesley Hall Methodist Church, Feilden Street, Blackburn (at 11.30 on Tuesday, 28 April), develops support for more than 500 asylum seekers and some 300 refugees in Blackburn with Darwen.

A further estimated 400 ‘transient’ people are believed to be living in the borough.

“Our overall aim is to offer practical help, support and advice to people in our community living in near destitution and often in fear,” said Canon Michael Wedgeworth of Blackburn Cathedral.

The Rev Jim Jones, minister at Wesley Hall, said: “A huge encouragement to our work has been the way ethnic and religious divides are crossed by mutual acts of support and help."

“Our hopes for this Project include enabling families to settle here and get the support needed especially by their young children ” said Cal McKenna, of the Children’s Society.

Farzaneh Salemi, one of the Project partners granted refugee status, said that she had endured brutal treatment in Iran for her religious and political views, but now enjoys living in a peaceful and tolerant country.

Bsrat Tewolde, a Christian from Eritrea who is still fighting for refugee status, said the project had given him "a new sense of confidence and freedom to live (his) faith.”

A Ugandan from a Muslim family , Zakariah Insingoma, said “I can pray freely in the Cathedral, and have made many friends here.”

Overall, the Project aims to offer hospitality for asylum seekers, refugees and other vulnerable immigrants to help secure their safety, personal development and happiness.

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