Just before the start of this Inter-Faith Week, a group from the Faiths Forum for London visited refugees in the camp at Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh and Hindu members of the group returned determined to seek action in relation to the plight of the up to 6000 migrants living on the camp, mostly victims of war, civil unrest, and dictatorship from Sudan, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Syria and elsewhere.
As Forum members took part in acts of solidarity this week to remember the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris, the group also remained focussed on the need to end the misery on the camp, where many have also fled terrorism.
Archbishop Fidelia Opukiri of the Council of African & Afro-Caribbean Churches expressed the view of the group when she said, “This should not be; this is an abomination.” Others spoke of their horror at the conditions at the shanty settlement which is only 35 minutes by train from the UK.
Co-Chair of the Forum, Jasvir Singh, also Chair of City Sikhs said, “The refugees in Calais are living in appalling conditions which will only worsen as winter approaches. We cannot turn away from them in their hour of need, and we must act now in the name of humanity.”
Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg spoke to many Muslims and Christians living on the camp and commented on his return that “Within the abomination there is also inspiration: the resilience of those we meet, their aspiration to create new lives, the will for life.”
The group was led by Canon Steven Saxby of London Churches Social Action and Nazek Ramadan of Migrant Voice. This week they appeared on ITV London News following footage of the group’s visit to the camp. Asked if the Paris bombings will affect the work of faith groups, Canon Saxby responded that terrorism is an attack on humanity and we let the terrorists win unless we respond with more compassion and solidarity with those who are most vulnerable in our world today.
Nazek Ramadan stressed the ongoing work of faith-based and other organisations in providing humanitarian aid in Calais and seeking legal and political solutions to end the scandal of the camp. The group also met Yvette Cooper MP in Calais and urged her to press for the creation of safe, legal routes for migrants and for family re-unification of refugees separated in different parts of Europe.