‘Continuing the tradition’ of helping refugees at Chichester charity

Sanctuary in Chichester aims to help refugees
Sanctuary in Chichester aims to help refugees

A refugee charity is hoping to set up a centre in Chichester to help ‘desperate’ families who have nowhere to go.

People from Syria or Afghanistan who have lost their homes and family members to conflict are now being supported by Sanctuary in Chichester.

To mark the anniversary of Bishop Bell’s death last Wednesday, the charity announced its aim of creating a centre to continue in the spirit of the late Bishop’s charitable work, which involved helping those fleeing Germany in the Second World War.

Roger Pask, from Sanctuary in Chichester, said: “These people are desperate and in need of some help and we want the centre, when we set it up, to focus primarily on their needs.

“We hope that we can accommodate between six and eight people, or perhaps four individuals and a family of four Syrians.”

The organisation has said it will ‘take no position on the controversy surrounding the handling of the allegations against Bell’ of historic sexual abuse brought posthumously but it wanted to emulate his example of offering shelter to the poor and persecuted.

At present, people supported by the charity are housed in church or county council premises or privately by individuals giving them a home but the group wants to raise funds to lease or even buy a centre to give more effective outreach.

Roger said: “The vision is really to continue the tradition of Chichester as a compassionate, caring community that welcomes strangers.

“It’s what Bell did during the war and it goes back to St Richard himself in the 11th century.”

Among the project’s supporters is Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson, whose father was a refugee helped by Bishop Bell in the 1930s.

An active member of the church resistance against the Nazi regime and the son of a Jewish mother, Franz Hildebrandt was a close friend of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and George Bell, who personally advocated for Franz’s rights as an ‘enemy alien’ in the UK.

Ruth said she wanted to help do the same for others today. “The fact that I’m a daughter of a refugee has never been far from my mind,” she said.