Unitarian Refugee Welcome Committee
The church has undertaken a number of initiatives to help asylum-seekers and refugees. It has been recognised as Ireland’s first Church of Sanctuary by the Places of Sanctuary Ireland network for these activities. For a number of years it organised Christmas parties for the families and children of people living in Direct Provision (DP) centres in Dublin and Meath. It has supported Cooking for Freedom, a small charity started by Mavis Ramazani to support people in Direct Provision to cook for themselves. Under Covid-19 restrictions Cooking for Freedom has helped with practical and emotional support to many locked into the DP system.
It set up the Unitarian Refugee Welcome Committee in November 2019 in order to prepare to welcome a Syrian refugee family under the government’s Community Sponsorship Programme, under which community groups, churches and other grass-roots organisations sponsor and support such a family for two years. This involved the church finding a home for this family, schools for the children, access to state services and providing other assistance on their arrival in Ireland. It quickly raised the €10,000 needed to be part of this programme.
However, in March 2020 the Community Sponsorship Programme was suspended because of the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning that no more Syrian families could come to Ireland. The committee had already found a suitable house and, at the request of the Irish Refugee Council, arranged for it to be taken by a South Sudanese refugee family who were already in Ireland. The committee has also donated sums to the Irish Refugee Council for household goods, laptop computers and other essentials for refugee families. It is ready to move quickly into action again once the Community Sponsorship Programme resumes.
The Justice and Peace group, now known as the Social Justice group, has been concerned with several community issues in Dublin. In past years, before the Covid-19 pandemic, we supported the Women’s Refuge in Rathmines by bringing in a monthly supply of certain foods. Members of the group did this in rotation and we made an effort to include anyone in the congregation who wished to help. When the refuge was closed for renovation and its purpose changed under new management, we were told our help was no longer needed. Other activities have included sending Christmas cards to prisoners of conscience in many countries, using information on cases held by Amnesty International, and holding an annual clothing collection for the Simon Community.