In our interview, Rev. Cannon Dr Ellen Loudon, Director of Social Justice explains why we’ve joined forces with The Children’s Society, Mothers’ Union and Home for Good for Hat-te-bah; an awareness-raising training for all those who come into contact or support young refugees and migrants.
Tell us, what is Hat·tê·ḇāh?
The idea of hat·tê·ḇāh is one of sheltering and aiding people in their time of need, particularly in this case young people who are alone, fleeing from frightful persecution in their home countries, and in need of someone who can offer support and guidance. It is a Hebrew phrase used in two different contexts in the Old Testament; once to describe Noah’s ark, and once for the basket that kept Moses safe in the River Nile. And, just as Noah built the ark to escape the great flood or Moses was carried to safety from persecution by Miriam’s basket, we want to offer help and support for young refugees as they enter this new phase of their lives here in Merseyside.
The Children’s Society, Liverpool Diocese, Mothers’ Union and Home for Good are joining forces to support vulnerable young refugees in Liverpool, drawing on our strengths and expertise to address the unique issues faced by refugee children from different perspectives, and to provide places of welcome and hope for these young people who are in great need of it.
Why do you think the idea of Hat·tê·ḇāh is important to us today?
In the current climate, there is a real need to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the vulnerable children who are seeking help in our country. The global refugee crisis continues to grow, and hundreds of young people are coming to Merseyside to flee war, violence, and persecution in their homes. It is a frightening and difficult process to seek asylum in a foreign country for an adult; but for these child refugees, the ordeal might be even harsher due to their age.
They will be in need of help and support, and we are in the unique situation here to give aid to the young refugees who arrive in our county. Our vision is for our communities to be places of safety, places of hat·tê·ḇāh, for refugee children.
What kind of struggles do refugees face when coming here?
More children are fleeing their homes to escape violence, persecution, or conflict than at any point since the Second World War. Many of these children will arrive here traumatised, destitute, and completely alone. They have been through so much in their home countries – war, violence, oppression, and many other ordeals that children should not have to face. They might struggle with language and cultural barriers, with isolation and hardships, and it is our aim to equip people to help these young refugees with whatever issues that they might face when they come to Merseyside so they might live comfortable lives without fear, and grow into healthy and happy adults.
What is this event, and what training will it give to people?
The Hat·tê·ḇāh initiative aims to equip participants to understand and respond to the issues faced by young refugees through free awareness-raising training. It is aimed at people who might come across refugees in their work, or who might influence others who do. This includes both church professionals – clergy, family or youth workers, chaplains and pastoral assistants – and professionals within church communities, such as teachers, lawyers, and medical professionals.
The event will highlight issues facing refugees in this country, improve understanding of their rights and responsibilities, and suggest how professionals can be more inclusive in their work. Some topics covered will include myth-busting – exploring the fictions around asylum seekers and providing the facts, the process of immigration and asylum as seen through the eyes of an unaccompanied asylum seeking child, what rights child refugees have and what they are entitled to, organisations which can provide advice and support, and how we as professionals can be more sensitive and aware of the needs of young refugees in our work.
Why would you encourage people to take part in the Hat·tê·ḇāh initiative?
As Christians, we have a responsibility to ensure that our communities are places where inclusivity is practised, respect is paramount and welcome extended without compromise. Throughout the Biblical narrative we see strangers welcomed, and those who are living in fear protected and supported, so that they might flourish. These young people are living in fear now, and it is our task to open the door to them and extend whatever help and resources we can to help protect these refugees and allow them to grow and flourish.
Bishop Paul is inviting as many people across our diocese to attend the training and said,
“As Bishop of Liverpool, I am fully aware that our situation here in Merseyside prompts us to be constantly alert to those who arrive in our county. I am delighted that our organisations are able to work together on this joint venture. I would encourage you to register your interest and share details of this initiative with anyone else within your church community that you believe could find the training of interest or relevance.
I also invite you all to pray with us for the training. You can find further information and resources to guide your prayers online. If you are unable to make the training day, perhaps you might consider organising a group from your church committing to pray for refugees.”