Exploring Cotham, Clifton & Redland Community Sponsorship

On December 11thon a cold Tuesday evening, we went to Cotham Parish Church to explore what Community Sponsorship meant.

We were drawn together by exploring the feasibility of the Community Sponsorship scheme to welcome a Syrian refugee family in the area of Clifton, Cotham and Redland.

We were welcomed by David Stephenson, the new Rector of Cotham parish church and St Paul’s Clifton. After a delicious Syrian meal, he invited us to hear his proposal to sponsor a refugee family in the locality, through the communities and Churches Together of Clifton, Cotham and Redland. He emphasised that community sponsorship was a way of nurturing the local community, as well as helping refugees. It can have an important impact upon general attitudes to migration and refugees.

The retired Baptist minister of Westbury village, Eveline Johnstone, described the highs and lows of the team of 40-50 people who worked together for two years preparing for a Syrian family to live within that community. Volunteers included Christians from various churches, progressive Jews and some Muslims who had formerly been refugees themselves. Over 150 people had some involvement.Two weeks ago, their Syrian family arrived: a young man with his wife and four children aged from 10-16 years. Their house had been bought, refurbished and cleaned by community volunteers of all ages in Westbury on Trym.

Majid Alshabi was one of the first refugees to arrive under the government’s Syrian resettlement scheme and he shared his experience with us of being newly arrived in Bristol, without much knowledge of English. He is now preparing to enter university education.

During seven years of war in Syria there has been no education for many children. Loubaba Mamluk came from Syria to Bristol University as a PhD student at around the time that the war started. She is now a Senior Research Associate in Epidemiology at Bristol University Medical School. She is working alongside David Stephenson on this project.

Jonathan Cox of Citizens UK has been supporting initial conversations with Loubaba and David. His organisation helps to enable the formation of local groups to “contribute to the common good” through Community Sponsorship.

The evening was inspiring, and the words from Fishguard volunteers spoke to us all:

We are all contributing in a very small way to the common good” and “Once you are in someone else’s story you are transformed”.

Finally-

Quaker Faith and Practice, part of 23.48, Parker J Palmer 1977:

God comes to us in the midst of human need, and the most pressing needs of our time demand community in response.
How can I take the risks which right action demands unless I belong to a community which gives support?
How can I learn the sanctity of each life unless I live in a community where we can be persons not roles to each other

Come and join us for the next meeting at Cotham Parish Church on January 29that 7pm to underpin our Redland Quaker commitment to support refugees  and to underline BRISTOL WELCOMES REFUGEES.

Hilary and John Mayne and Julia Bush

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