Syrian refugees feel safe and welcome in Moray

Shuna Dicks
Rev Shuna Dicks with a refugee family - Mohmood, Duha and their four little girls - that she helped support in a refugee camp on the Greek island of Chios.

Syrian refugees who have settled in Moray feel welcome and safe, a Church of Scotland minister has said.

Rev Shuna Dicks, who leads Aberlour Parish Church and is the spokeswoman for the Moray Supports Refugees group, said the five families love the area and “feel at home”.

She revealed that one of the Syrian men has proudly declared that he is now Scottish.

More than 1,200 Syrian refugees have been welcomed to Scotland since the first flight arrived in Glasgow 12 months ago.

Todaycommunities across the country are being urged to support ‘A light for Aleppo, a light for all’, by lighting candles as a gesture of support for the men, women and children trapped in the besieged Syrian city.

Welcome

Mrs Dicks gives a personal insight into the impact of work being carried out by volunteers across Moray to ensure that people fleeing armed conflict and persecution are given the help and support they need.

“Around a year ago I was invited to become part of the planning group for the arrival of Syrian families as part of the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme here in Moray.

We had recently set up a local group Moray Supports Refugees (MSR) which as part of its aims and objectives sees welcoming vulnerable people as a core part of what we do.

The local Community Planning Partnership, co-ordinated by Moray Council worked together to ensure that when the first families arrived in Moray that they had everything they needed.

MSR were able to play an important role by arranging for clothes, toys, prams and buggies, welcome cards, welcome gifts and food were in the homes waiting for the families on their arrival.

There are five families living in Forres and know from them how important these little things were.

Knowing that local people had donated things for them and wanted to make them feel welcome was important.

One of the welcome gifts we were able to give each family member was a hand knitted blanket.

Love our neighbour

I had been contacted by a local lady who, along with a group of others, had been knitting and crocheting squares which were sown together into blankets.

Could we use these as part of our humanitarian aid that we were sending over to refugee camps?

We of course said ‘yes’ but we also thought about the symbolism of these blankets. Each square knitted or crocheted by someone as a gift for a stranger.

Each square knitted or crocheted by love. Jesus told us we were to love our neighbour.

And here were blankets, simple gifts, but gifts of love. And so we ensured we kept enough of the blankets to give each of our new neighbours on their arrival.

Last week I attended a meeting of the Syrian families who are now settled in our area. They love it here. They feel welcome and safe. And they feel at home.

Which was wonderful to hear. One of the men declared he was now Scottish and proudly so. They still have a way to go before the can fully integrate but they have come a long way and not just geographically.

Having visited a refugee camp on the Greek island of Chios early this year, I know how difficult those places are and I have heard first hand from people in camp how the uncertainty of their futures affects them.

We share the same sky

And I keep coming back to some I read last year, a phrase that has stuck with me.... 'we all live under the same sky'.

This spurs me on to keep doing what our group does, caring for our neighbour that we share this sky with.

People just like you and I, whose circumstances have been changed for ever.

When you become a refugee your life is reset to zero and you have to begin again.

Compassion and love are the least we can offer our new neighbours.

Jesus, himself a displaced person, over and over again showed in his life and teaching what living out the gospel was.

And it is as simple as this...love. Love self, love your neighbours.

Simple.”