In the lead-up to Christmas the parish hosted many Syrian families who had arrived earlier in December to Coatbridge and Airdrie after a long ordeal travelling through central Europe. These families fled their homeland as a result of the war that is raging in Syria and other parts of the Middle East. They travelled through our continent in search for a better future for themselves and their children.
St. Augustine’s was happy to offer them great Scottish hospitality on their arrival. A recently formed group at our parish worked hard to make sure this first welcome event was a great success. Entertainment was provided from the Choir and musicians of St. Ambrose High school. A balloon artist was also on-hand to make balloon animals for our young people, and two pipers provided the perfect Scottish atmosphere for the ocassion.
After a light bite of halal sandwiches, cakes and scones the families were invited to our upstairs Hall which had been turned into a makeshift Matalan for the occasion!!! All kinds of clothes, toys and household items were available for families to take home with them. These items had been generously donated by people in the local community.
Before leaving our parish each person was given a Christmas present to mark their visit to St. Augustine’s. It was especially heartwarming to see our children giving small gifts to the Syrian children. Children are the same the world over – a wrapped gift excites every child!
It is difficult for us not to see the parallels between our Syrian friends, fleeing their homeland in search for peace, and the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt. Jesus, Mary and Joseph were once refugees in need of a warm welcome and hospitality, in need of somewhere to lay their weary heads. Whilst it is perhaps the greatest scandal of all that some families still have the that same difficult journey to make 2000 years on, it’s also heartwarming to see that people still today offer a hand of friendship to those in need.
I thank all those who welcomed our new friends to our community, and I pray that they will always find Christian warmth and hospitality in the people they meet here in Scotland.
It is our hope at St. Augustine’s that we will continue to offer material support and friendship to the Syrian families as they settle in our community. Let us welcome them as we would the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Below you will find a selection of photos from the event.