On Thursday 7 December 120 Syrian refugees came to the Blue Mountains. They were welcomed at St Hilda’s Church Hall with a banquet prepared by volunteers from St Hilda’s Anglican Church and St Canice’s Catholic Church. The banquet included many dishes from their own country, Syria.

BMRSG was represented by Joy Connor, Anne Henderson and myself. The visitors included many children. All have come on humanitarian visas which means that they have temporary government support and permanent residence.

There was a delay as the visitors enjoyed a free ride on the Scenic World train. When they did arrive, they were all excited by this experience.

It was very gratifying to meet so many new refugees. No one spoke good English but they managed to express their pleasure at the warm reception and their gratitude for the opportunity to live in a peaceful country. I remember a few words of Arabic (from my childhood period in Palestine/Israel). In every case they responded with delight. All refugee supporters could do well to l3earn a few easy words such as “shukran” (thank you) “salaam aleikum” (peace be on you) and “merhabah” (hello).

The few guests to whom I spoke proved to be well educated, skilled people: an electrician, a surveyor, a manager. I believe this is typical of Syrian refugees. The children had all learnt some English at school.

At the end of the lunch, the MC spoke to the gathering and they responded with applause for the hosts (about ten local people). Each of us got a present of Lindt chocolates. We all said “please come again!”.

Report from George Winston

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