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Queen ‘shares empathy’ for refugees as she meets faith group volunteers

Faith and belief groups said the Queen took time to quiz them on their work in supporting people from a variety of backgrounds.

The Queen greets Baroness Eaton and Sir Kenneth Olisa (Jonathan Brady/PA)
The Queen greets Baroness Eaton and Sir Kenneth Olisa (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The Queen is said to have been “empathetic” to difficulties facing refugees and asylum seekers while meeting members of faith and belief groups who promote community cohesion.

At a reception held at Buckingham Palace, the monarch greeted 160 representatives of different beliefs and faiths from across the UK.

A smaller group of 12 volunteers and community workers had the chance to discuss with her their efforts to bring about positive change in their neighbourhoods.

They said the Queen took time to quiz them on their work in supporting people from a variety of backgrounds and encouraged them to work together in future now they had met each other.

Rachael Cox, from Celebrating Sanctuary Birmingham, who develop community engagement projects with refugee communities and asylum seekers, said the Queen seemed “empathetic” during the discussion.

“She was very interested in all of our work with refugees and asylum seekers in particular,” she said.

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The Queen speaks with Dai Hankey, Dr Rose Drew, and Pastor Kingsley Avanagh (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“She seemed very empathetic to the situation they’re in and the difficulties that they face.”

Pastor Dai Hankey, from Cardiff, called the Queen “genuinely buzzing” to hear the community leaders networking amongst themselves.

Following his conversation with the monarch, he said: “She was very aware. You get the impression that people who live in palaces aren’t aware of the outside world, but she really does know what’s going on in the world and especially the UK.

“That’s quite humbling, hearing her speaking about asylum seekers and asking questions.

“It’s encouraging that she really cares.

“She seemed genuinely buzzing that the room was buzzing.”

The pastor leads Red Community, a charity that supports survivors of human trafficking in Wales.

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The Queen greets (from left) Valentine Nkoyo, Anna Dyson, Rachael Cox, and Nighat Khan at the reception (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“When she mentioned asylum seekers, she said (she) imagined there’s more people being asylum seekers and refugees at any time before because people are moving around the world so much,” he added.

“It’s a very aware comment, you know what I mean?”

Kingsley Avageh, a pastor who runs Paradigm Impact network, a community-based learning centre with a Christian ethos in Doncaster, said it was encouraging to be invited to such an event.

After finding out he grew up on the streets of Ghana, the Queen was said to have called his native country – which she has visited twice – “very friendly and welcoming”.

The Queen, accompanied by the Duchess of Gloucester, appeared in good spirits at the reception.

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The Queen with Housing Secretary James Brokenshire (Jonathan Brady/PA)

She met with James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government, and minister for faith Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth.

Baronness Eaton, chairwoman of Near Neighbours, a government-funded programme working to bring together people from different faiths and ethnic backgrounds, thanked the monarch for arranging the reception during the line-up.

The Queen shared that there was a “tremendous amount of talking” among the faith and belief groups who had gathered in the next room.

PA

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