2016/02

A forum meeting was held at All Saints' on Sunday 28 February 2016. Rev Gareth Wardell, vicar, welcomed participants and Sarah Pain, licensed lay minister, led worship. Notes from the September 2015 forum had been made available.

Rev Vicci Davidson, CTaH chair, then led a discussion on local issues. Some contributions to the Village Plan had been about minor matters such as hanging baskets, but it would be useful if social issues were also addressed. Members were asked to contact the council's Mr William Reed with their concerns about matters such as the lack of affordable housing. Language skills may be needed if help and benefits were being given to people whose first language was not English. The food bank was well-stocked but perhaps under-used. Churches were encouraged to apply for food-bank vouchers to offer to needy people. Such applications need to be made to Ms Caroline Ferrier, the food bank manager; each CTaH member-church could hold a stock of such vouchers.

The Methodists' Extra Mile project had helped more than 60 families, many of them with children under the age of five years. Some help comprised supplying families with items such as baby-buggies, but the project lacks storage space. Churches are asked each to provide a contact person who can relay help-requests to their congregations. Those contact people could also promote use of the food bank and encourage GPs and others to refer to the food bank.

Rev Gareth introduced Marie-Christine Nibagwirea survivor of the Rwanda genocide and founder of SaferefugerwandaIn 1994 she was happily married with a daughter. Then the country descended into turmoil and she left for Congo, Tanzania and then Kenya where she worked for the Red Cross. Marie-Christine obtained asylum in the UK in 1998 and has worked supporting refugees in the UK, France and Belgium. She was grateful for all the prayer she received, and thanked God for the many miracles that had happened to protect her and to assist her in her work. Marie-Christine had seen the mood of Rwandan refugees in Belgium go from despair to hope. Britain was seen abroad as a generous country, concerned about human suffering in the world. Marie-Christine is doing research on churches' role in helping refugees; she would welcome input to that research and she offered to help churches working with refugees.

Gareth described how Christians were often not safe in refugee camps. UK government policy was to take refugees from camps, and this meant that Christians were less likely to be helped by this country. The secretary would send Gareth a draft letter about this which could be sent from the forum to the government. Go Kingston Volunteering seeks volunteers to work with refugees. The Sons of Divine Providence, headquartered in Hampton Wick, were working with refugees. The borough was seeking landlords for 50 refugee families, whose costs would be covered by public money.

The matters discussed at the meeting meant that CTaH wanted to consider further its role of social advocacy. This could be done at the 27 April forum, for which a venue was sought. The meeting thanked Marie-Christine and ended with the Grace led by Rev Vicci.
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