Minute of silent prayer on Sunday 6 March

The Bishop of Dover has responded to the violent clashes between refugees and French authorities.

The Bishop of Dover has responded to the violent clashes between refugees and French authorities by calling for Christians to join in a minute of silent prayer on Sunday 6 March.

In a statement released today, the Rt Revd Trevor Willmott said: “We know that there are no easy answers to the refugee crisis, no quick fixes. As different interests compete across Europe, questions of security, stability, shelter and safety clash violently. And when they do, those that suffer most are those who are most vulnerable. It should never be acceptable for children to be sprayed with teargas.”

The Bishop has invited Christians to make space for a minute of silent prayer in their worship services this Sunday or during times of personal reflection: “It’s hard to know what to say in the face of such conflict and suffering – and at such times maybe the answer is not more words, but silence. Let us fall silent in the face of pain and striving and confusion. Let us fall silent at the foot of the cross, for we know that God is with us in the darkness, God stands in the crowd enveloped by teargas, he sits in the barren landscape of bulldozed homes.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, addressed the House of Lords on this issue on Tuesday (1 March), saying: “My Lords while we would all agree that the situation is difficult for the French authorities, I’m sure we would also feel that it is significantly more difficult for the 300 unaccompanied children. And would the Noble Lord not agree that – having recently visited the Marsh Academy on Romney Marsh and seen a school and a community fostering and caring with the utmost compassion for significant numbers of unaccompanied children – that issues of compassion should easily trump issues of administrative efficiency and tidiness, and also narrow definitions of family links, and therefore we should take more children, very quickly?”

Bishop Trevor’s words are echoed by those of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Arras, Bishop Jean-Paul Jaeger, whose oversight covers Calais, and with whom Bishop Trevor joined in a day of solidarity with refugees and migrants in ‘the jungle’ camp last year. Writing in his recent Lenten pastoral letter, Monsignor Jaeger suggested that people’s spiritual discipline during Lent would be missing a dimension if it did not include “…our brother and sister refugees as part of our prayer, fasting and fellowship.”

He continued: “We cannot, and must not forget that human beings should not be used as pawns in a game of strategy.  Nothing can hide the collective inability of the international, European and national powers to effectively resolve the realities that lead people to uproot themselves in the search for security and ensure their own survival. The removal and redistribution of people can temporarily soothe consciences and open the way for local solutions; however the international community needs to remember the facts and circumstances as to why this situation has occurred.”

The Diocese of Canterbury has raised more than £58,000 for work with refugees through the Bishop’s Advent Justice Appeal. Details of how this money will be used will soon be announced.


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