Just occasionally one gets to do something which is a pure joy. This morning was such an occasion. With fellow religious leaders, I went along to Brussels National Airport in Zaventem to welcome Syrian families arriving in Belgium within the context of our Belgian ‘Humanitarian Corridor’. Arriving as a refugee is a difficult experience. So we were determined to make their arrival as pleasant as possible.
We gathered for a reception on the little-used fourth floor of the airport. Our guests came to the arrivals hall on the second floor and then took the lift to the fourth. Exiting the lift they were presented with roses and little gifts for the children. Their trolleys were labelled ‘Humanitarian Corridor’ to make sure they were accorded VIP status.
Amongst those in the welcoming party, were Baroness Hilde Kieboom (above, centre) – President of Belgium’s Sant Egidio community – and Mgr. George Kourie (above, right), the Patriarchal Vicar for the Syrian Orthodox Diocese of Belgium, France and Luxembourg.
Our guests had begun their journey to Belgium at 2:00a.m. so they were very tired. But there was still a lot of excitement, hugging and kissing.
Drinks and nibbles were provided (and this being Belgium they were delicious) before there were some brief welcome speeches from Christian and Muslim religious leaders. In my speech I explained that I was a migrant too, that I had found Belgium a very welcoming country and that I hoped our Syrian guests did too.
After the Welcome ceremony, our guests were accompanied to their new homes. All the recognised religions in Belgium have contributed to the Belgian Government approved Humanitarian Corridor Scheme. The Roman Catholics have raised half a million euros – an amazing sum! Anglicans (Diocese in Europe and TEC) have raised 16,000 euros – which is quite a lot for a small community. The money is used to house our Syrian guests and to get them started on integrating into Belgian life.
At Easter time we think of Jesus bringing new life where there was darkness and death. Our Syrian guests have left a war-torn country in which they have known suffering and trauma. Their lives were previously almost without hope. They now have a new start in the peaceful and secure conditions of Belguim. Their children will receive education and they all have a hopeful future. It is so heartening and encouraging to be able to help give these families the chance to begin a new life. It is a little parable of the resurrection.