Religious leaders call for increased support for refugees and host communities

Religions for Peace and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have assembled their Multi-Religious Council of Leaders for a two-day field mission to Chisinau, Republic of Moldova, calling for people of all faiths, across the globe, to increase their support of Ukrainian refugees and host communities.

The event was attended by His Eminence Metropolitan Petru of Bessarabia, Gillian Triggs, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection at UNHCR, the Moldovan Minister of Culture, Sergiu Prodan, and representatives of religious organisations in the Republic of Moldova.

The main objectives of the Religions for Peace and UNHCR field mission and its international multi-religious delegation of senior faith leaders included: to recognise and expand awareness of the Moldovan government’s efforts to host and integrate Ukrainian refugees; to show solidarity and spiritual communion with the Ukrainian refugees and people of the Republic of Moldova; to contribute financially to support the services of UNHCR and the Moldovan government; and, to provide support to build strategic partnerships and relationships with interfaith and humanitarian actors.

“Love brings us closer,” said Metropolitan Petru. “Ukrainians are our brothers, and we are neighbours. We are still cooking hot meals for refugees who are coming to the border frozen. Anyone who comes to us in need will receive what they need with open arms.”

Present at the event on January 31, 2023, Fr Ciprian Ion Ioniţă, patriarchal adviser coordinating the Social-Philanthropic Sector of the Patriarchal Administration, emphasised the support offered by the Romanian Orthodox Church to Ukrainian refugees during the last year both on the territory of Romania, as well as in the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.

“We always try through solidarity, through compassion, to help all refugees who need help,” said Father Ciprian Ioniță, in his capacity as President of the Romanian Patriarchate’s Filantropia Federation, which includes 25 of the Church’s most significant NGOs.

“We have developed various programs, from humanitarian transports to creating a refugee shelter. And further on, we are glad to be able to do important things for displaced people because we are facing a humanitarian crisis not seen since the Second World War. We believe that by being close and united, we can overcome all difficulties with the help of God.”

Appreciation for Diaconia Social Mission

UNHCR Representative Francesca Bonelli explained the value of hospitality: “Moldova is a little country with a big heart,” she said. “Despite limited resources, Moldovans opened their country and homes without hesitation.” She called on the international community to continue their solidarity and support for Moldova.

Francesca Bonelli expressed her deep appreciation towards the Diaconia Social Mission of the Metropolis of Bessarabia for the support given to refugee children and families seeking shelter and protection in the Republic of Moldova.

Bonnelli also said she hopes the moral model of this response focused on supporting refugees and host communities alike will spread beyond the current context, guiding other countries in crisis management in the future.

Diaconia Executive Director Igor Belei said the event was “a form of recognition of the involvement of the largest inter-religious structure for peace.”

“On the other hand, today’s roundtable discussion confirms how important each state’s openness and involvement can be in managing humanitarian crises in support of fellow sufferers beyond religion. Even small countries, although they cannot give large numbers, can offer models of humanity,” Igor Belei noted, according to a press release by Diaconia Social Mission.

Almost 750,000 Ukrainian refugees entered Moldova in the past 11 months, and over 102,000 refugees remain in the country, nearly half of whom are children. The Government’s decision last month to activate temporary protection is a concrete expression of their continued and sustained solidarity with the refugees from Ukraine.

Photo source: Diaconia Social Mission

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