MORAY COMMUNITIES ARE ready to do everything possible to bring relief to refugees fleeing war-torn regions of the Middle East.
That was the clear message from a meeting last night in Elgin at which over 70 community members representing individuals and groups from throughout the region gathered to discuss a local response to the crisis.
Facilitated by tsiMORAY, the meeting was addressed by John Ferguson, community planning and development manager at Moray Council, who said that the local authority was ready to offer help and assistance.
Mr Ferguson told the meeting that while precise details of the UK response to the crisis were not yet clear, the council would liaise with communities in every way it could to help a coordinated response.
Following a presentation by Aberlour Church of Scotland minister Reverend Shuna Dicks, who outlined the depth of the crisis that has been growing for several years, groups were formed to consider ways that communities in Moray could best work together and what action was required to support the Moray CalAid efforts that were already under way.
Now a full report on the meeting is to be formed by tsiMoray with a management committee created to inform and steer Moray’s response to the crisis.
Chief Officer of tsiMORAY, Fabio Villani, said: “We were absolutely delighted at the turnout in Elgin Town Hall – that demonstrated the depth of feeling in Moray that we should do all we can to relieve the plight of refugees.
“What very quickly became clear was the passion and drive felt by people who so far have wanted to do something but were not sure what they as individuals could do. We are now much better armed to respond to the crisis and better prepared to move forward as a community.”
Main facilitator for the meeting was tsiMORAY’s Elidh Brown whose drive and above all good humour was appreciated by everyone. Elidh said: “I was delighted at the response, over 70 people attended the public meeting and contributed their thoughts, ideas and practical actions to what we in Moray can do to make refugees welcome here.
“From tonight’s event we can look to establish a steering group and a Moray-wide refugee support network – and we would be really glad to hear ongoing from people who would like to find out more and be a part of that.”
Moray’s MP and MSP both attended, Angus Robertson MP telling insideMoray: “There was a great deal of compassion and support at the very well attended event and the discussions brought out some really useful ideas and practical ways in which we can support refugees both here at home and abroad.
“Moray is a very welcoming place for people from many backgrounds and many cultures and it is great to see that welcoming hand being held out.”
His Holyrood colleague Richard Lochhead expressed his “pride” at the manner in which people in Moray were reacting, saying: “I was very pleased to join so many Moray folk who are committed to doing all that they can to alleviate the plight of the millions of refugees seeking sanctuary from war that we are seeing played out on our television screens.
“Moray was well represented with charitable organisations, local representatives, churches and others, all coming together to support positive action to support refugees.
“I am proud to be part of a Moray community that really cares about people whether here or further afield and a community that is prepared to lend a hand in any way it can to ease the suffering of others.”
One of the local councillors behind the Moray CalAid campaign, Kirsty Reid, added: “I was delighted to see so many people come together to try and make a positive impact.
“The community has really pulled together and working as a team I am sure we can achieve our goals of making moray welcoming and being ready to support anyone that will be coming to Moray from war torn areas. it is a wonderful example of what we can achieve together.”
Anyone wishing to offer their support to the joint Moray effort can contact tsiMORAY on 01343 205269 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
LAST NIGHT MORAY people had their say – and sent out a clear and unequivocal message, they will welcome refugees to our community and help provide them with a safe environment in which to bring up their children.
However – what was clear in discussions at Elgin Town Hall was that not everyone in our region agrees either at the level of help Moray should be offering or indeed on if we should be doing so at all, given the social difficulties facing many of our own residents.
That is clearly understood.
Such voices may not have been present at Monday’s meeting, but they have been heard through insideMoray’s own Social Media pages. Many groups and individuals as well as community leaders at this meeting accepted that for Moray’s response to be at its best it needs to take everyone in our community with it – and that means reassuring those dissenting voices that this crisis will not lead to an influx of thousands but rather dozens, it will not see any less effort being expended on lifelong residents who are facing social and economic difficulties.
It does seem strange that a community in which we are facing increased demand for the services of a Food Bank is still so willing to reach out a helping hand to refugees from a far country. That has the appearance of appearing strange, yes, but people in Moray simply cannot turn their backs on those who are starving, those who are seeking to protect their families from a horrible war that few of them – indeed, few of us – can even begin to understand.