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The devastating earthquake in Syria and Turkey has hit some of the most vulnerable communities on the planet.
People uprooted by the cruel civil war and repeated bombings were sheltered inadequately in flimsy buildings and many thousands have now lost their lives, with countless others needing urgent care and sanctuary.

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In Ireland, empathy and action in the wake of such disasters is never far from the surface. We know what it’s like to be driven from home by poverty or conflict, it’s in our collective memory. Many refugees, coming here from Congo, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria and Ukraine, have testified to the deep healing and restoration they feel when they encounter that open hearted welcome. Unfortunately, there are now over 100 million refugees and displaced people in our sadly conflicted world. A compassionate, kind welcome is needed more than ever.

Our communities, in Schools, Universities, Libraries, Churches, Cities, Groups and other Places of Sanctuary, are united in reiterating that refugees are welcome here. We are disturbed that some people in various parts of Ireland have begun to express opposition and hatred towards refugees, and we appeal to Irish people to listen to the truth about refugees and to the deeper welcome in their hearts, rather than blindly following an ill-informed message that scapegoats and divides. We know that there are social issues, especially housing, in urgent need of action by local and national government. But let us never be deceived into thinking that housing provision – or any other resource – is either for refugees or for homeless Irish people. Both groups urgently need to be adequately housed and to be treated with respect and fairness. Compared to the millions displaced by war and disaster, the numbers coming here are comparatively small and we call for a united, joined-up and action-based plan between the government, the private sector and communities so that we can welcome and care for people coming here to seek safety and peace.

One of our core values is to help create helpful conversations and friendships between Irish communities and newcomers, especially refugees, thereby dispelling fears borne out of ignorance and misinformation. In our experience, when you meet a refugee – in school, college, work, church or socially – you quickly understand the strong human links between us all and you see the person, not the label. If those demonstrating had family and friends lost or made homeless in the earthquake, they would move heaven and earth to bring them here. We believe the same heart of compassion is there in us all, deep down, and we appeal to our friends and communities, let’s spread compassion and understanding rather than hate and fear.

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