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Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The Divine Image - Private view

Hannah Thomas has first-hand knowledge of the refugee crisis through the art project for Syrian children living in refugee camps in Jordan, organised with the support of Relief International. The first canvas painted in Za’atari camp was an expression of the children’s experience of war. After a number of groups of boys and girls had painted on it, the canvas had become an abstract chaos of splashes of red paint, dark colours and layers of the children’s drawings of tanks, soldiers, dead bodies, planes and destroyed homes. It is a small glimpse of all that the children witnessed in war-torn Syria. Hannah’s artwork humanises individuals forced to flee their homes, whose personal stories are otherwise shrouded by statistics. In these images we see the human cost of the war in Syria and of our treatment of those made refugees.

The Divine Image is the third exhibition at St Stephen Walbrook in the past 12 months to focus our thoughts on the issues underlying the Refugee crisis. Michael Takeo Magruder created a digital installation Lamentation for the Forsaken which juxtaposed the sufferings of the Syrian peoples in our own day with the death of Christ. In this way Michael reminded us that Christ's death is symptomatic of all suffering throughout time. Michael evoked the memory of Syrians who have passed away in the present conflict by weaving their names and images into a contemporary Shroud of Turin. His work offered “a lamentation not only for the forsaken Christ, but others who have felt his acute pain of abandonment.” Then to celebrate the Finissage of ‘The Shadow of Angels’ exhibition by Brazilian artist Kim Poor in the autumn, we presented a very special evening with perfomances by the celebrated Aleppo-born concert pianist Riyad Nicolas and up and coming singer/songwriter Katya DJ. The fact that Riyad came from Syria was the prompt to use that evening as an opportunity to express concern at the bloodshed in that country and to raise funds which may in some small way provide a measure of the healing about which this exhibition has led us to reflect.

Five years of conflict has had devastating effects on the people of Syria. The situation is shocking. Half the country is displaced and more than 4.6 million people are now refugees. More than 400,000 people have been killed. Christian Aid is working with Syrians in Lebanon and Iraq, providing support to some of the most vulnerable refugees, including women who have experienced gender-based violence, and those with disabilities.

Six-year-old Hammoudi was born in Damascus with complex physical and mental disabilities. He was given two life-saving operations by the Syrian health service, but his third operation was cancelled when violence overtook the country. More than one in five refugees suffer from some form of impairment, whether from birth, illness, accident, or a conflict-related injury. Syrian refugees with disabilities often can't get the care they need. Now, with the help of donations to Christian Aid and the work of their partner, Lebanese Physically Handicapped Union (LPHU), Hammoudi has learned to walk for the first time.

Layan is a Syrian refugee living in Lebanon. Sadly, like many Syrian women, she's a victim of domestic violence. During times of conflict, women and girls are at greater risk of sexual and domestic violence. Layan now regularly visits Kafa, a Lebanese organisation that supports women who have experienced, or are at risk of violence. She said: 'Kafa helped me to get out of the awful situation I was in. I feel that there are people who care and worry about me.' Kafa successfully helped to lobby the Lebanese government to pass a law criminalising domestic violence. The law also applies to Syrian refugees.

These are the kind of people and situations that your donations to Christian Aid’s Syria Crisis Appeal can help to address. Please donate using the red Emergency Appeal envelopes.

I also encourage you look at the website for Capital Mass, which aims to engage and support every parish in the Diocese of London in tackling poverty and inequality. The Diocese of London commissioned Capital Mass through the awarding of a grant, to co-ordinate and draw together local and diocesan wide responses into the immediate and long term needs caused by and brought to our attention through, the Syrian Refugee Crisis. The Capital Mass website therefore has lots of ideas for making a difference here, as well as abroad.

Let us pray …

Wilderness God, your Son was a displaced person in Bethlehem, a refugee in Egypt, and had nowhere to lay his head in Galilee. Bless all who have nowhere to lay their head today, who find themselves strangers on earth, pilgrims to they know not where, facing rejection, closed doors, suspicion and fear. Give them companions in their distress, hope in their wandering, and safe lodging at their journey’s end. And make us a people of grace, wisdom and hospitality, who know that our true identity is to be lost, until we find our eternal home in you. Through Christ our rejected yet risen Lord. Amen


Riyad Nicolas - Danse De Laila.

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