We are Churches Together in Luton and we desire to acknowledge and celebrate a community of people finding meaning in Christ. With that said we bring you our fifth monthly newsletter. Each issue focuses on highlighting the incredible work being done in Luton by Christian charities and churches run by dedicated individuals and supported by the local churches.
In this issue, we feature All Saints and their project work for refugees and Asylum seekers in Luton.
Please download the attachment below for the full article, and please print it for anyone in your congregation who would like a copy.
CTL and All Saints Refugees and Asylum Seekers Project
It is hard to imagine what it must be like to leave the familiarity of the country where you have grown up and travel to a strange land. Threats to your safety, opposition to your faith or political beliefs and intimidation by the authorities can build up to the point where making a risky journey into the unknown is preferable to an endangered life. This is the background to the support work we have been doing at All Saints for 3 ½ years.
In May 2020 we became aware of two hotels in our parish being used by the Home Office to temporarily house Asylum seekers. Further hotels and self-contained units were later put into use with over 1000 Asylum seekers being housed in our town. All Saints Church found itself on the frontline and began offering clothing, initially donated but then purchased with grants and donations we received. From Autumn 2020 we began an occasional clothing bank and in 2021 this became a regular twice weekly drop in. We set up a charity “All Saints Refugee and Asylum seeker project” with governance separate from the church.
Persian New Year
Over this time, we have supported people from Iran, Iraq, Syria (mainly Kurds.), Sudan, Ethiopia and other North and East African countries. Nigeria. Latin America especially El Salvador and Honduras. A small number come from Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. Some have already spent time in Germany, Denmark or other countries before being expelled and having their Asylum status rejected. As a result of problems with our Asylum system, a good many have been in their hotel accommodation for over a year.
It takes time to build up a trusting relationship, where people can feel confident that they are not being judged and have gained the security of knowing that where possible, their immediate needs are being met while waiting for their asylum claims to proceed. This can include assistance in registering with a doctor, dentist or completing paperwork for a school place. Typically we have 30-50 people every session and maybe up to 12 children. We offer a hot drink, biscuits / cake and the chance to sit and talk or play board games. Just having a safe space to relax in is important as the hotels do not provide this.
People have travelled here by a variety of means – some on the small boats but others by plane. The ones who cross the channel arrive with next to no clothing apart from the standard issue items they get as they arrive. Items regularly provided include underwear, warm outer clothing and toiletries. We have in general moved on from second-hand donations to focus of new items or very targeted requests. As well as providing items of clothing, we occasionally provide other items that are donated to us. In the past this has included bikes but we had to stop this due to so many being stolen.
Winning football team,
All of those we support are naturally, learning about a new country, while beginning to come to terms with recent trauma. For some this includes religious persecution. We have a large number of Iranian Christians who have found their spiritual home at All Saints. Their faith is very inspiring and even with the language barrier, we are able to hold bible studies in the church where they have the chance for the first time to be open in sharing and learning about what it means to be a follower of Jesus At the time of writing, some of our local hotels are being closed and those who have begun to put down roots in our community will find themselves being moved on, sometimes for the second or third time. We pray that they all find a pathway to a new settled life and for the Christians, a continuation of their faith journey which we have been privileged to be part of.
Please see the attachments for this report in a printable format and an appendix giving details of some of the people helped.