Three Church of England bishops have called for landlords in Brighton and Hove to help house refugees fleeing Syria by charging affordable rents and waiving deposits.
They have promised to put their money where there mouths are by making donations from church funds to support new arrivals.
The Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner, the Bishop of Lewes Richard Jackson and the Bishop of Horsham Mark Sowerby said: “Today (Friday 9 October) all three bishops in the diocese of Chichester have issued the following statement outlining further plans in responding to the needs of refugees.
“Alongside our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in the diocese of Arundel and Brighton, Chichester diocese will work alongside the staff of Brighton Voices In Exile (BVIE). BVIE has nearly ten years’ experience of working with the refugees and asylum-seekers, from various countries, who have settled in Sussex. We believe they are best placed to co-ordinate practical help and to inform us of changing needs.
“It is expected that those who arrive will have refugee status and that those who are able will seek work in our local economy.
“One pressing need is likely to be that of affordable accommodation.
“BVIE is compiling a list of private landlords who are prepared to let properties at affordable rents but without requiring substantial deposits, which are beyond the means of people who have left everything behind them.
“If you have a property to let and would not require a deposit, please make contact with BVIE.
“Another pressing need will be finance. BVIE is a charity and requires funding for its work with refugees, whether from Syria or elsewhere.
“The bishops will be using their discretionary funds to support Syrian refugees and the collections from ‘episcopal services’ such as confirmations and licensing services over the next three years will be given in support of refugees.
“In the longer term, we anticipate that those settling in Sussex will be supported through a number of agencies.
“Food banks will remain open to those who need them and the churches are committed to support their work.
“Church schools will seek to offer a warm and gracious welcome to children who have come to live here.
“Family Support Work (the children’s charity) is expecting to extend its services to those who come to us as refugees and will similarly need additional resourcing to meet that need.
“Many of those fleeing Syria are Christians and the Churches of Sussex will naturally want to offer a warm welcome to their brothers and sisters, many of whom have suffered considerable trauma at home and through their journey to safety.”
The bishops urged people to “pray for the people of Syria and Iraq and for all refugees and for all who are responding to their needs”.
They asked people to “offer accommodation in property you can let without a substantial deposit”.
They also called for people to offer and register their skills including the ability to speak a relevant language, teach English as a foreign language or give legal help and advice.
And they asked for donations to Brighton Voices in Exile at www.brightonvoicesinexile.co.uk, the children’s charity Family Support Work at familysupportwork.org/support-us or, nationally, to the Red Cross or Oxfam.
Last Friday (2 October) the Anglican Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Arundel and Brighton Richard Moth issued a joint statement in the Syrian refugee crisis.
They said: “The persecution of our Christian brothers and sisters in Syria is horrifying in its brutality and grieves our hearts.
“With countless Christians, we welcome the British government’s decision to receive refugees who are fleeing this terrible persecution.
“Mindful of Jesus’ teaching that what we do for the least of our brothers and sisters, we do also for him, we are committed to making these people welcome in our local communities.
“Please join us to support the arrangements being made to provide for the needs of those arriving in the UK, having left behind them all that they possessed, all that was familiar and much of what gave them their dignity.”