On Saturday 26 November the Pluscarden community was delighted to hear a first hand account of local efforts being made to help refugees.
The Reverend Shuna Dicks is Church of Scotland Minister in Aberlour, and an active member of the organisation "Moray Supports Refugees". She came to the monastery to tell the brethren about her work with refugees.
During the summer she visited the Greek Island of Chios, and spent time helping in a refugee camp there. She was able to share some heart-rending stories of refugees she met, with her own photographs lending immediacy to her tale.
The story of Mohmood and Duha (pictured with their children) is typical. He was approached by a militia group in Syria and invited to join their ranks. Those making the invitation did not expect to hear the answer "no". To save his family, his only option was to leave behind everything, and flee the country. So it was that this little family landed up on Chios, where it is now stuck in a tented camp, in a most vulnerable condition, without any official status, dependent for survival on aid, and waiting day by day to see if any country will be prepared to take them.
Some refugee families from Syria have now been housed in Moray. Although their residence has been arranged through official channels, they still very much need the help of local people: practically, morally and in many other ways. "Moray Supports Refugees" offers such support. The organisation also regularly sends out to the refugee camps shipping containers of things like warm clothes and blankets, or kits of first aid or hygiene materials etc.
In her talk, Mrs. Dicks wisely kept clear of the political aspects of the refugee problem. Obviously politics have a centrally important place; but her focus was on the simple Christian response of giving what support we can to people in need.
The Pluscarden community is very happy to associate itself with this work.
Our monastic vocation precludes volunteering to work in refugee camps, or even to help sort through donated goods in local offices, but we want to do what we can, through donations of goods or money, through fraternal contact, and above all through prayer.