The Church of the Resurrection, Pera, is our Turkish-speaking Anglican parish located in the centre of Istanbul. For many years now this unique Church of England parish has been organising a party for refugee children and their families during the Christmas season. It is a priority for the Church’s programme of “Mercy Ministry” to help the refugees in the city as much as they can. Of course, helping the refugees consists merely of “sticking a band-aid” on the wound, since finding a solution for the root of the problems is near impossible. The need is exceedingly great and complicated.
“All that we do is for the children,” says one of the Church volunteers who lovingly organised the games for the children at the party. “I wonder if there will be enough food,” muses another of the volunteers preparing sandwiches. “This year there are more people than the previous years,” says one who has been participating in this event for many years, happy yet slightly overwhelmed by the enormity of the need. “Thank you for the party and the presents. It’s so special for these children, because they usually never experience anything like this,” says the representative of the ecumenical refugee ministry, who ministers to them throughout the year. Many children from Iraq, Afghanistan, Cameroon and of course, Syria, leave the party with colourful presents and smiles. “Thank you for everything!” they say.
The Church of the Resurrection, Pera, began this accompaniment for refugees in the city out of a desire to provide an experience for the children and their families where they would feel special, wanted, valued and where they could truly have some fun. Every year more people join this event that has been on-going for many years now. Every child who comes to the party is given a unique “shoe box” wrapped in cheerful seasonal paper, prepared individually for them. This year parishioners prepared over 100 boxes. And yet the need was even greater.
Although an Anglican initiative, the Church of the Resurrection members are joined by other Christians in the city. The hall for the event is generously offered by the (Roman Catholic) Caritas Ministry. Some volunteers are not members of a member of any church, but join in the preparation activities, games, crafts and face painting for the children.
This year was the most crowded so far. The war in Syria and the surrounding vicinity has vastly increased the number of asylum seekers in Turkey. The need is great. “What we can do is a drop in the ocean,” says ones of the volunteers from The Church of the Resurrection, Pera, but then adds, “May God increase what we have given, just as He increased the loaves of bread and the fish. May He show us our part in this ministry and give us wisdom on this journey of solidarity”.
The Priest-in-Charge of the Church of the Resurrection, the Revd Engin Yildirim, says, “In the midst of uncertainty and hardship in the region, we must live the truth of the Gospel, helping the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus Himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” (Acts 20:35)