On Friday we had the pleasure of hosting a special Christmas event for Syrian families who have recently arrived in Bristol. The event was held in partnership with Bristol City Council who have overseen the resettlement of 10 Syrian refugee families in 2016.
While Christmas is not something that Muslim families normally celebrate, we wanted the families to feel welcome and included during this time of year when many people take time off and go away with their families. The children each received a gift from Santa Claus (donated by kind individuals) and each family received a treat pack (donated by Severn Vineyard Church). The evening was a good opportunity to explain some of the customs and traditions of the season (though translating an explanation of Santa's reindeer and sleigh proved a real challenge to my Arabic!), and my outstanding memory is the look on the faces of the children as they met Santa Claus for the first time!
Alongside the fun and the laughter, though, I was very conscious of the fact that events in Syria continue to cast a dark shadow over the lives of these families and so many others. Several of the families are from Aleppo, which has been in the news so much recently, and I greatly admire their courage as they try to rebuild their lives here while their homes and neighbourhoods are full of such tragedy and despair.
As I reflect this week on the Christmas story, and on the terrible circumstances that have led these families to being in Bristol, my prayer is one that echoes words spoken long ago...
'On earth be peace, and good will towards men'.
by Dan Green