Columban Interreligious Dialogue Co-ordinator Mauricio Silva, chairperson for Restore, together with Columban Lay Missionaries in Britain, attended the celebration on Zoom. Mauricio thanked members for their commitment, time and support and delivered the following message.
“Restore was founded in 1999 by a group of Christians from various denominations to offer welcome and help to refugees from Kosovo arriving in the region. The words in the book of Jeremiah offered a vision to sustain their work and efforts.
‘For I will restore you to health and I will heal you of your wounds,’ declares the Lord, ‘Because they have called you an outcast, saying: “It is Zion; no one cares for her.”’ Jeremiah 30:17
That vision is expressed in acts of hospitality, a principle that lies at the heart of the Christian faith. We believe that God is a hospitable God, and as God’s children we extend that hospitality to everyone, particularly to those seeking sanctuary. We believe that God wants to see justice for refugees and asylum seekers and an end to oppression. Anchored in this principle, Restore has offered welcome to many asylum seekers and refugees for the past 22 years.
The last 12 months have been extremely challenging for many people and the charity and voluntary sector have understandably struggled. Early on in the pandemic last year, and challenged by the prophetic vision of our founders, the decision was made that Restore would continue to serve the needs of asylum seekers and refugees during this critical time. Today, with a thankful heart, we celebrate the efforts gone into adapting and adjusting to the emerging crisis. The fruits of these efforts is the enacting of that principle of hospitality by reaching out to those seeking sanctuary and shelter at a time when they became even more vulnerable.
Over the past year, Birmingham Churches Together, with the backing of its Presidents and Trustees, re-committed to keep Restore as its project for reaching out and supporting refugees and asylum seekers. This significant decision continues to make Restore a beacon of Ecumenism in practice, not only locally but also nationally. The task ahead is to ensure that Restore, as a project, is provided with adequate governance and managerial structures to enhance its stability and growth.
The past year saw the departure of two long standing members of Restore staff, Rachel Dale and Geraldine Hunt. We thank them both for their valuable contribution to the project over many years.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to welcome two new members of staff, Catherine Bridgwood and Joshua Smith. Their commitment and hard work for the project is already evident.
I would also like to thank Andy Ferrari for his fantastic work supporting the project during this critical year and for his enthusiasm in engaging refugee men in virtual and in-person activities. Also it’s important we say a word of thanks to our Manager Jeremy Thomson. In a challenging year and despite the Covid restrictions and uncertainties he has been a responsible, creative and confident leader.
On September 26th, the Catholic Church will celebrate the 107th World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Pope Francis has chosen ‘Towards an ever wider we’ as the theme for his message this year. As Christians, we believe that our faith is revealed in our encounter with strangers. We believe that getting close to them and offering hospitality changes and enriches us. At a time when the UK Government plans to implement tougher restrictions on people seeking sanctuary, which could lead to more misery and hostility towards asylum seekers and refugees, it is essential that the work carried out by Restore continues. We must counteract strong social and political narratives of division and fear. Together let us strive to continue building that ever wider WE. In doing so we hope to make society better.”
Restore aims to welcome, include and assist the integration of refugees and those seeking sanctuary from persecution. Passionate about building relationships and supporting interfaith initiatives particularly among migrants and disadvantaged communities across Birmingham, the Columbans are proud to be supporters of this charity, and through their lay missionaries, have supported them now for many years.