The declaration of a state of emergency in France, following Friday night’s terrorist attacks, in Paris prompted two Tyrone clergy to revise their plan to take a cargo of relief aid to a refugee camp in Calais.
Instead, Rev Mark Greenstreet, Rector at Urney and Rev Mark Lennox, Bishop’s Curate-in-charge in Strabane, drove the aid cargo to a depot in London, from where it will be transported to Calais in the coming days.
The two clergymen, from neighbouring churches in the Strabane area, made their mercy dash at the weekend in a van crammed with relief aid, which had been donated by parishioners from churches throughout the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe.
Rev Greenstreet said they were inundated with donations since they issued their appeal for aid three weeks ago.
“People have been so generous in their response. We’ve been contacted by people from the Church of Ireland, obviously, but by members of other churches as well, from right across the community,” he said.
“The refugee crisis has touched many in our community but some people were unsure what practical help they could offer to help ease the refugees’ plight. Our initiative offers a way of getting the right kind of supplies directly to those people who desperately need them.”
The two ministers contacted humanitarian organisations on the ground in Calais to find out which items were needed most urgently.
Rev Lennox said they were surprised at what they discovered: “One of the things they’re crying out for is pairs of socks, especially with the onset of winter.”
With scores of new refugee families arriving all the time, the duo were also asked to bring blankets, sleeping bags, children’s educational books and non-perishable food items.
Originally the clergymen planned to transport their cargo in a box-trailer but a local business, Cita Furniture in Sion Mills, offered them the use of a van.
“We’ve all been moved by the images we’ve seen on television of refugees fleeing war in Syria and elsewhere and by the pictures of despair in makeshift camps,” Rev Lennox said.
“Mark and I felt compelled to respond to the crisis. In James 2: 14-17, we, as Christians, are called to action: ‘What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead’,” he said.