Four church entities and six local congregations worked together on Sabbath, 18 June, to share a live message of hope in the midst of the refugee crisis. Claudette Hannebicque, the leader of ADRA Dunkirk was one of them.
Claudette is hard to tie down. An active member of the small Adventist congregation in Dunkirk, France, she is also the driving force behind ADRA Dunkirk and the help that the Church has been providing for refugees and migrants camping on the edge of the town and aiming to cross the English Channel to their preferred destination, the UK. From limited facilities in the local church and from her own home, Claudette and a small team of volunteers have taken responsibility for feeding the camp residents every Sunday.
Why is she hard to tie down? Because when you visit the site with her, she is constantly disappearing to talk with a family, play with a child, listen to the experience of a new arrival, or to co-ordinate with the authorities or other NGO's. She is such a well-known presence on the site that one phone call to the mayor's office and she has permission for whatever she needs – including live recording and skyping from the middle of the refugee camp on World Refugee Sabbath, 18 June.
In interviews that were shared live during worship services in the UK and USA, and were also recorded in French and Italian for later use, Claudette expressed her Christian compassion for people in the camp. She may not agree with what they are doing – but they are still God's children; made in His image.
She is not alone. To emphasise the importance of what Claudette and thousands of other volunteers, paid staff and NGO's are doing across the world, representatives from the Adventist Development and Relief Agency-Dunkirk, Adventist World Radio, and the Inter-European and Trans-European Division Offices of the Adventist Church, focused on the site to share both the plight of the refugees and to highlight the positive work that is being done to help them.
With technology provided by AWR, live connections were made to both the family and contemporary worship services at Newbold church, Binfield; then Brixton church in London; Brighton church on the south coast of England, and finally to Spencerville church in Maryland, USA. Hosted by Victor Hulbert, TED Communication director, the live interviews made a real impression on an estimated 3,000 church members across the five congregations. Some smaller congregations, such a Coleraine in Northern Ireland, tuned in to the Newbold Church live stream to watch.
Albert Bezman, a member of Newbold church stated, "the feedback from people who saw the broadcast is very positive." The first-hand immediacy of being on location and sharing the experience during live worship made the experience more meaningful to the congregations involved. What they had seen as news reports, turned into something meaningful, compassionate and humanitarian. Victor not only interviewed Claudette, he also talked with Tim den Hertog, a Newbold church volunteer who regularly buys fruit in the wholesale market near Heathrow airport each Friday, then rises at 4 am on a Sunday morning to head to Dunkirk, help with the cooking, and distribute the food. Having just returned from Greece, Victor was also able to talk first-hand about the experience and needs of refugees there.
For those who missed the live experience, AWR will shortly release a compilation report.
Corrado Cozzi, EUD Communication director, who also conducted on-site interviews in Italian and French, has one concern – that the momentum of reporting and interest that built up in the run-up towards World Refugee Sabbath and the UN World Refugee day on Monday, 20 June may now decline. "There are 60 million refugees or displaced persons around the world, 50,000 in Greece alone. More are now making the very dangerous crossing from North Africa to Lampedusa, Italy. Many lives are being lost in the process. We cannot forget them. As a church, as individuals, we have to make a difference in their lives." All the team in Dunkirk endorse the World Refugee day statement issued by ADRA, which includes the following:
"We call on the INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY to find a timely, humane solution to resettling the refugees stranded in Greece and other parts of the world. We also call on the international community to address the circumstances that cause people to become refugees. We call on the international community to help the Syrian Government find a peaceful resolution to the Syrian conflict, and address the conflicts and human rights concerns in other countries which cause people to flee."http://www.ted-adventist.org/images/news/A-cry-for-help-Please-dont-forget-me1200.jpg
On World Refugee day, our hearts and prayers are with all those who find themselves displaced or in danger in this turbulent world – and for those who are seeking to help them.