Two Hundred Afghan Families Visit Adventist School in England

Initiative is helping the refugees to resettle in the United Kingdom.

Sharon Platt-McDonald, British Union Conference, and Adventist Review

On January 16, 2022, the One Vision organization hosted a traditional Afghan dinner event at the Stanborough Secondary School in Watford, England, attended by more than 200 Afghan refugee families.

Just imagine for a moment that you are fleeing your country of origin. The place of your birth has become the place of potential untimely death, so escape is the only option. As you leave the shores of the familiar, you exchange the known for the unknown, in a hurried and painful separation from family and friends and all you held dear, to face the uncertainty ahead. The reality of being a stranger in a strange land hits home as you contemplate a future as a foreigner.

Such was the harsh experience of thousands of desperate Afghans fleeing their homeland.

Following the withdrawal of British and U.S. armed forces from Afghanistan and the swift ascension of the Taliban regime seizing power in the summer of 2021, the world witnessed traumatic and heartbreaking scenes of human suffering in a bid to escape tyranny.

The United Nations estimates that between January 1 and October 20, 2021, 677,000 people were newly and forcibly displaced inside Afghanistan.

As I contemplated how the world would react to this humanitarian crisis, it was heartening to read that the United Kingdom government had responded to the plight of refugees fleeing Afghanistan with a package of care to address their transition and diverse needs.

Even as the UK government set out its plans to facilitate the transition journey of the Afghan refugees, the One Vision charity was also planning a warm welcome to take in these precious individuals with the compassionate care identified in Matthew 25:35-40.

One Vision charity has embraced the arrival of the Afghan families since their entrance to the UK in November 2021. Speaking with Enoch Kanagaraj, One Vision charity founder and CEO and member of Stanborough Park Seventh-day Adventist Church, I was pleased to hear his plans to minister to the needs of this people group. Kanagaraj shared how he facilitated the collection of essentials such as food, clothes, and domestic and personal hygiene items to ensure their daily needs were met. The charity then delivered the items to their temporary residence in various hotels while permanent housing was arranged.

(Left to right) Geert Tap, Roya (Afghan refugee), Harjit Singh (interfaith leader), Kirk Thomas, Zobaida Sakandary, Maria Kempinska (comedy therapist), and Enoch and Nishtha Kanagaraj.[Photo: British Union Conference]

“Our goal is to integrate the new arrivals to the UK, helping them to adjust to the diverse aspects of society,” Kanagaraj said. “The arrangement includes introducing them to all faith groups, although they come from an Islamic country and not exposed to other religions.”

Working in partnership with Hertfordshire County Council and the British Union Conference (BUC) Adventist Community Services department, One Vision is helping to strengthen the hope, confidence, and resilience of the new arrivals as they adjust to British society.

Special guest presenters at the Stanborough school event were BUC evangelism director Kirk Thomas, Stanborough Park pastor Geert Tap, and Zobaida Sakandary, director and lecturer at the Faculty of Law and Political Science at Kabul University, Afghanistan.

Thomas addressed attendees sharing his experience as an immigrant, and spoke about his faith in God, his culture, and the importance of his adjustment to living in the UK. Tap also shared his experience of arriving to the UK and how he has integrated into the British way of life, with his faith being the strong foundation. Sakandary spoke about hope and courage in the face of change and how survival and success are possible.

A vital aspect of the event was hearing the accounts of the Afghan attendees, sharing their stories of fear and anxieties, and the challenges they faced living in the hotels on arrival to the UK. However, as they savored the inviting atmosphere and delicious traditional food they had missed for more than four months, many shared favorable comments regarding their enjoyment of the event.

“Thank you so much! We really enjoyed the event; it was a great evening!” one of the refugees said. Another said, “Thank you so much; it was a great party for all our families; we enjoyed and appreciated everything all your team has done for us.”

In reviewing the event, Kanagaraj said, “We thank God for the success of the evening. These people are children of God, and we should be showing care and compassion to every wounded individual and their family. One Vision team will work very closely with them to give support with their practical needs as well as their mental health.”

As we contemplate the positive impact of One Vision and government agencies in assisting Afghan refugees in transitioning to life in the UK, may God smile as He says, “You took Me in.”

The original version of this story was posted on the British Union Conference news site. Sharon Platt-McDonald is director of Adventist Community Services, health, and women’s ministries at the British Union Conference of the Adventist Church.

Sharon Platt-McDonald, British Union Conference, and Adventist Review