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An Art Group for Asylum Seekers

Hannah Joy is part of a team running an art group for Asylum Seekers. We were recently able to provide some financial support, to help them purchase art materials. Here Hannah explains a bit about the group and some of the people who are benefitting from it:

This week a Syrian man, around the same age as me, turned up to the Art Group. He’d just finished his first year at university when he was forced to flee his country, leaving everything behind. Five days previous to our meeting he’d been living in the refugee camp in Calais. Risking his life, he somehow made it over the channel and into the UK. It is for people like this young man; for those who have fled from atrocities beyond our human comprehension, that we have started this project.

The world-wide community is currently experiencing one of the largest humanitarian crises of the last decade, with millions and millions of people being displaced by war and violence. However, due to exclusive governmental policies, many are trapped in appalling conditions in refugee camps around Europe and the Middle East. Despite this, and ever-tightening restrictions from the Home Office and UK Border Agency, many Asylum Seekers continue to risk their lives pursuing safety in the UK.

The art group was set up to reach out to those who embarked on these treacherous journeys into the UK. It is based in a temporary holding house for Asylum Seekers who live there provisionally whilst they await dispersal to a variety of locations around the country. This period of waiting is shrouded in mystery as the individuals are told very little in regard to where they are going, how long they will be away and whether or not their asylum application will be accepted. In addition to these fears, many have been brought to the holding house completely traumatised by the atrocities that they have faced, with absolutely nothing, and completely alone.

Our hope is that the art group will provide a small but profound glimmer of hope to these people during a time of incredible vulnerability. We envision that the space will be used by those who are seeking asylum to come and experience a relaxing atmosphere and find expressive freedom, separate from the stresses of asylum applications and the numerous difficulties of life in an alien land. We believe that the process of group art-making breaks down the boundaries of communication, allowing those who are isolated to experience a life-giving sense of community, permitting those who are traumatised to experience the joy of creation and freeing those who are mourning into experiencing peace and rest.

Having been a refugee, I believe that Jesus not only loves these people but He truly understands them too. As those who follow Jesus, we are called to love them just as He does. Truly, where these people reside Jesus is there with them. If only we would just follow Him.

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‘Refugees welcome’ written in Kurdish, Arabic and Ethiopian


Image: December 27 2007 by Michael Rosenstein, used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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