Church Guild project sustains Mediterranean refugees in Malta

Refugee boat rescue
The Church of Scotland Guild is supporting initiatives in Malta which are helping alleviate the suffering of refugees

3000 people drowned in the Mediterranean in 2014. Recently two drifting ships carrying hundreds of refugees off Italy made the news, but most people are unaware of this tragedy on Europe's doorstep.

The world is facing the worst refugee crisis since WW2 and Malta - situated only 207 miles north of Libya and an EU member - is on the front line. But this small and densely populated island has been struggling to cope.

Only last week its foreign minister said his country could not afford to continue supporting migrants in its over-crowded and disease infested detention camps

The Church of Scotland Guild is supporting a project - titled 'Out of Africa into Malta - set up by St Andrew's Scots Church Valetta on the island.

Iain Whyte, Guild Secretary, said: "We have a long history of partnering Christian charities at home and abroad that are working with people on the margins - the poor, the vulnerable, the forgotten.

"The 'Out of Africa into Malta' project does all of these and the Guild is privileged to offer its prayerful support, to raise awareness of the issues and to raise much needed funds."

For over six years the congregation of St Andrew's Scots Church has been helping ease the suffering of hundreds of people, offering small but life enhancing comforts to those in the camps.

Cool boxes in summer to keep heat, dirt and rats at bay or snowsuits in winter to keep babies warm and dry, have been offered.

Friendship and companionship is also available to people who are enduring unimaginable stress.

In September, the church opened its modern International Centre in the heart of the capital Valetta, which acts as a base for operations.

There is hope for these people.

Support from the Church of Scotland Guild's renowned fundraising power is helping these desperate people create a sustainable life in Europe.

£90,000 has been given to Malta Microfinance, a scheme which aims to help family groups stand on their own feet again.

It is making an impact.

Peter Lloyd, chairman of Malta Microfinance, said: "It has helped move migrants out of the open centres into rented accommodation as a start on integrating into Maltese society.

"Courses are helping migrants move out of low paid menial jobs into work that pays better and is more satisfying; business loans help migrants permanently transform their lives.

"It's still early days but word of mouth is bringing more people forward to borrow money from us.

"We are indebted to everyone who has given so generously and in particular all the speakers who go out to tell our story to local guilds."

English language classes are available at the church, which are growing in popularity.

The congregation also made a donation to a Migrant Offshore Aid Station which has saved thousands of lives at sea.

The Royal Navy ceased operations in the area last October. Rev Shuna Dicks of Aberlour Church, twinned with St Andrew's, ran a petition against this damaging decision.

Malta is an island with a rich Christian legacy. St Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked there.

Now you can help bring Christian values to life on this embattled island.

Peter said: "The fact is that many are fleeing for their lives. I genuinely fear how many will drown in 2015.

"Please pray for our work. Please pray that that more members of our congregation will become involved so that we can do even more.

"Please go along to the talks being given to the local guilds and if you wish to donate please give to us via the Guild project Out of Africa into Malta.

If you would like to donate to work being done in Malta, please write a cheque payable to the Church of Scotland, with a note saying it is for the Out of Africa project, and post addressed to The Guild, Church of Scotland Offices, 121 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4YN.