Dean’s Black Santa Lent Sit-Out to Raise Funds for Ukrainian Refugee Crisis
Dean of Belfast to hold Lent Sit-out raising funds for the Ukrainian Refugee Crisis
From 12noon to 3.00pm on Wednesday 9th March, the Dean of Belfast, the Very Revd Stephen Forde, will don his “Black Santa” cloak much earlier in the year than usual, to receive vitally needed donations for the Ukraine Refugee Crisis.
Working in partnership with Habitat for Humanity and Christian Aid, both promoted by the Church of Ireland’s Bishops’ Appeal, all funds raised through the Dean's Lent Sit-out will be channelled directly to the communities and families in greatest need as a result of the current Ukraine refugee crisis.
Habitat for Humanity has extensive experience of working in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, and will be providing emergency provisions and accommodation to the thousands of refugees daily crossing the borders into the nations neighbouring Ukraine. Christian Aid, now a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), was established by the churches in the aftermath of the second world war, specifically to offer humanitarian aid to the refugees across Europe who emerged from the devastation of that conflict. Through partner churches across eastern Europe, Christian Aid is channelling funds to the places and people where it is needed most.
Although Black Santa is best known for the money raised on the steps of Belfast Cathedral in the weeks before Christmas, previous Deans of Belfast have responded to particular humanitarian crises. Dean Houston McKelvey raised almost £1 million in response to the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004. And in 1974 Dean Sammy Crooks (the original Black Santa) collected funds for the people who lost everything in the devastating flooding in Bangladesh.
Now in 2022, Dean Stephen Forde will take to the cathedral steps from 12 noon to 3.00pm each Wednesday across the six weeks of Lent from 9th March to 13th April. This will allow the people of Belfast and far beyond, along with many churches, to express their generosity to support those people suffering bombardment in Ukraine, and those who have been forced to flee as refugees to neighbouring countries.
Dean Stephen comments:
“In the week when Russian troops first invaded Ukraine, and the bombardment of Ukraine’s cities began, I was involved in a virtual conference with church people from across Europe. We were welcomed by church leaders in Poland, who then excused themselves to travel to their border with Ukraine and establish emergency reception posts for refugees. Online, I shared conversations and prayers with the Archbishop of Estonia, and church leaders from Finland. Each was deeply conscious how this invasion could impact on their own nations. And the opening address, delivered on Zoom was from the Ukraine itself, from the city of Lviv, whose central train station is now familiar to us all. A church leader speaking across Europe in real time as the invasion advanced across his country. Over two days, on computer screens in homes across Europe we became intimately connected by a war which will affect us all.
As Christian people, and as human beings, we cannot watch the suffering of our closest neighbours, and do nothing. When the fleeing mothers and children could be my own daughters or grandchildren, I cannot stand by.
Let us remember that our Government has pledged to match every pound we raise, with a further pound of government funding, doubling our personal giving. Because what we will give, we give for people just like ourselves, who have had to leave everything behind, not least their menfolk, and as refugees to step into the arms of strangers across borders.
Each of us struggles to know how best to respond to this crisis, the gift of open hearts and our generous giving is a powerful response in the face the destruction and despair of such a violent war.
Over these next six Wednesdays, please be as generous as you can.
See Habitat for Humanity's Facebook page here:
See Christian Aid's Website at
For information about the Bishops' Appeal, see: