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Wednesday, December 12, 2012
How the action of an Australian Prime Minister so angered us that my wife and I started
a ministry to Asylum Seekers
By Adrian Hawkes
Special to ASSIST News Service
LONDON, UK (ANS) -- I had been pastoring a church in North London, when my wife
Pauline and myself were shocked as we began to discover the plight of Asylum Seekers
who were flooding into London from war zones like Sri Lanka, Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Kosovo, Iraqi, Congo, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, to name just a few.
These were men, women and children who had escaped the violence of their homelands to
make the long and dangerous journey to the British capital.
Pauline and I moved to North London in 1974, after ministering in a church in Middlesbrough, a
large town situated on the south bank of the River Tees in north east England. While there,
we had also had taken up the responsibility of leading two local church communities in the area.
Now settled in London, and through a long series of events, we had taken the local authorities training course and began to foster children on the council's behalf. After many years of doing this, and getting somewhat older, we decided bringing up teenagers should be for others.
Then one night in
August 2001, while watching the news on
BBC TV, we were horrified to see a story that a Norwegian freighter had picked up a group of would be refugees to
Australia and they were caught in sweltering temperatures at Christmas Island and some were injured and I believe others
died in the incident.
The John Howard Government of Australia had refused permission for the Norwegian freighter MV Tampa, carrying 438 rescued refugees, predominantly Hazaras of Afghanistan from a distressed fishing vessel in international
waters, to enter Australian waters. This
triggered an Australian political controversy
in the lead up to a federal election, and a diplomatic dispute between Australia and
When the Tampa entered Australian water, the Prime Minister
Within a few days the government introduced the Border Protection Bill into the House of Representatives saying that it would confirm Australian sovereignty to "determine who will
enter and reside in Australia". The government introduced the so-called "Pacific Solution",
whereby the asylum seekers were taken to Nauru where their refugee status was considered, rather than in Australia.
When the report ended, I had to protect the TV from being attacked by Pauline, who was by
now boiling with anger, and I explained that the TV was "not guilty" and the reporter was just explaining the facts of the story. She then said, "I will go to Australia then and punch that man."
After she calmed down, I told her that there were "loads of refugees coming to the UK
because of wars in their countries; so why should we not try and help them?"
Pauline agreed to ring the local authority and talk to them about this, especially as we were
quite well known to Social Services having fostered for them and led their foster team for
I was surprised, though, when listening in to Pauline's phone conversation, as I heard a man
at the other end say, "Yes, I am the manager of the authorities' asylum service, is that Pauline
I am talking to?" It turned out that Pauline had worked on training other foster parents for the department with this man who had now been promoted to manager of this service.
I heard him also say, "If you want to help in this area, tell us how you will do it and we will
fund you. We will have you on board tomorrow." Wow, what a response, and that started us
our incredible journey.
Following the telephone conversation, we put together a program to help Asylum Seekers. It involved housing, support and care, and just being there for especially the young people. So
we set up a company called Phoenix Community Care.
The name came about after a man I did not know came to me at a conference and said, "I am calling you Phoenix, because you are about to lose everything, but God will restore it many fold." Hence the name Phoenix. He was right. I did lose everything but God restored it back to us, but that's another story.
My youngest daughter donated her house to the work and moved out. We started off with our first client, a young Muslim girl from Congo, who had been
we wanted it to be really special for our shell-shocked clients. This young girl went into the first room and climbed into bed without even taking off even her outdoor coat and dropped off to
sleep and did not wake up for a couple of days.
Pauline, having finished the "I'm a professional placement manager" part, drove around the
corner and phoned me. She wept as she said, "Get more houses. There is a great need here."
The work has continued to this day, and you can find out more by going to our website which is: http://www.phoenixcommunity.org.
I will be telling more stories in the week's ahead and I ask you to pray for us as we bring the
love of God to these many needy people who have seen so much hate and violence in their
Adrian Hawkes is married -- Dan Wooding was best man at his wedding -- with three children, 10 Grandchildren and two Great Grandchildren. He is still part of the Rainbow Church North London which he used to lead and he also works with Sri Lankan churches in France,
Switzerland, Norway, Canada and Sri Lanka. as well as a church in Norway. He helped to form Phoenix Community Care Ltd, which looks after some 30+ unaccompanied minors, and
vulnerable adults in housing in North London; alongside his wife Pauline, he established PCC
Foster Care agency and recently launched London Training Consortium Ltd., which trains
refugees and asylum seekers with ESOL, IT, and Literacy. He has also written various books including: "Leadership and.," "Attracting Training: Releasing Youth," "The Jacob Generation," "HELLO is that you God?", "Culture Clash," and his latest, but first, fiction book, "ICEJACKED.
"He can be contacted by e-mail at:firstname.lastname@example.org
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