The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby visited Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre (CRMC) in December to record his New Year message.
Broadcast to millions around the world on the 1st January, the message called for peace, reconciliation and offering welcome to those in need.
Dozens of staff and volunteers, alongside refugees and migrants, joined the CRMC’s director Sabir Zazai to welcome the Archbishop to the centre.
The Archbishop’s visit was a huge coup for the CRMC. It came only days after the triumphant ‘#ThankyouCoventry’ dinner. This was organised by the CRMC to allow Syrian refugees to show their gratitude to the city which had offered them sanctuary. It also raised much needed funds for the destitution fund.
Welcoming the Archbishop to CRMC, Sabir said that although Coventry had a cathedral with no roof, homes, schools and hospitals in conflict zones around the world were in even worse condition. The result was that a staggering 65.3 million people were forced to flee their homes.
Sabir praised the response of the country and Coventry to the refugee crisis. He said: “We can always do more. I feel that in Coventry we can do more.
“We need leaders like the Archbishop to give us the inspiration we need and I’m really proud that he has paid us this visit.”
But the Archbishop, who is the leader of the Church of England, told Sabir and the CRMC staff and volunteers: “The inspiration is all coming the other way; from you to us.”
The Archbishop, who was vicar at Southam in the 1990s and a canon at Coventry Cathedral from 2002 to 2005 said:
“Coventry has always been a place really special for me, with its most extraordinary story of renewal and reconciliation. It was always really welcoming and this place (the CRMC) is a complete inspiration. You take the numbers we have all heard about and turn them into real people with real faces and real stories.”
However, the Archbishop also had a warning. He said that welcoming people meant the country and city had to invest resources into communities to make sure that services such as schools and health facilities could cope, and to avoid people being scared of strangers coming in.
“In this country there is plenty of money to do these things, but it needs to go to the most needy communities, so they can be as welcoming as possible,” he said.
And to the CRMC he added: “My prayer is that it goes on flourishing and being the human face of welcome in Coventry.”
If you would like to watch the Archbishop’s New Year message, please use the following link: Archbishop of Canterbury New Year message 2017