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Krish Kandiah

Krish Kandiah, Hospitality and the Refugee Crisis

portrait Gill Nichol
5 min

Being hospitable – the desire to share God’s love with other people via practical action – is what Krish Kandiah calls “the golden thread through the Bible.” And it’s been the golden thread through his own life too through his work with Home for Good, Hong Kong new arrivals, Afghan refugees and now, most recently, with the crisis in Ukraine. 

“Hospitality was important all the way through my life, starting with my mother. Because she was mixed race she was deemed to be socially unacceptable and put into an orphanage. When she was a teenager, Krish’s mother and sisters were brought to the UK by their great aunt, and at 16, his mother decided to train to be a nurse.

But, says Krish, “She was treated with such hostility. Some patients wouldn’t let my mother touch them – they wanted a white nurse. So, she launched a one-woman resistance campaign against this xenophobia and opened up her house every Friday night to anyone who didn’t really fit in. She’d cook up a huge meal and welcome everybody. The idea of using your home for the benefit of others became lodged in my mind.”

Fast forward a decade or two. Krish, who became a Christian in his teens, was working for the Evangelical Alliance and married with three (birth) children when and he and his wife decided they had capacity to look after more children. “I hadn’t picked up on the importance of God’s concern for vulnerable children until we started the process to become foster parents – now it’s really clear to me that caring for vulnerable people, especially children, is so central to God’s heart.”

Out of this desire, the adoption and fostering charity Home for Good was born and since then Krish has channelled his passion for hospitality into work with the UK government, last year taking a particular focus on refugees.

“The UK opening its borders to Hong Kong citizens from January 2021 was the largest planned migration from outside of Europe since Windrush, when the UK did a terrible job at welcoming people from the Caribbean. 50 years later we’re still reaping the consequences of that inhumanity and intolerance. So I thought, wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could flip that and help churches lay down a red carpet for the Hongkongers.”

Amid the challenging backdrop of the UK lockdown and a spike in hate crime towards people from Southeast Asian appearance, UKHK, a group of like-minded charities, set out to warmly welcome thousands of Hongkongers into UK churches and settle into new lives. One woman told Krish, “I gave up on Jesus 30 years ago in Hong Kong, but because of the welcome this church has shown me, I’ve come to faith and I’m praying that my husband will too.”

UKHK’s work attracted great media coverage, and this led the government to ask for help as the first refugees from Afghanistan arrived – a result of the US withdrawal. Using the same collaborative approach, Afghan Welcome was launched in August 2021.

Once again, charities and groups with a similar passion were gathered to welcome displaced people to the UK. “As people arrive in our country they become our neighbours, and there is so much biblical imperative for us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves: to imagine what life would be like in their shoes, and to find a way to care for them. As we demonstrate God’s love, people often want to know more about the source of our love.”

Krish and his team gathered together existing Christian charities with a shared passion and asked Stewardship if they were able to help. “The way Stewardship were willing to think creatively and sacrificially about generosity has allowed me and my team to operate a thousand times faster than we would otherwise have been able to do.”

Krish’s initial focus for 2022 was The Hospitality Pledge – a simple way to regain hospitality after months of lockdowns and start displaying God’s love to those around us. But little did any of us know that soon there would be another nation in crisis; another country’s people forced to flee for safety or face the unknown horrors of war.

With 1.7 million people displaced in only the first 12 days of the conflict in Ukraine, there was a clear need for another wave of hospitality. “We need to be thinking what we can do to play our part alongside our European neighbours,” said Krish.

Sending out a quick plea by tweet asking for help, Krish was encouraged as people came forward to offer their skills so that within days, they managed to set up a website, as well as a donation page with Stewardship for The Sanctuary Foundation. Churches, businesses, families and individuals can all get involved to pledge to be a sponsor for a Ukrainian family escaping the conflict.

“A recent survey showed 75% of the population do want to do more to help refugees. We can show the government through these pledges that people are really willing to help.” Krish explained that it doesn’t have to be putting up a refugee in your house, it’s just about pledging to do what you can to help – whether that might be picking people up from the airport, helping them to settle in or find what they need. “Imagine the difference we could make if every church in the country was up for being a sponsor.“

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For peace in Ukraine, welcome and safety for those fleeing the country and a team of people to help provide the skills and resources needed to love and support the refugees arriving in the UK.

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Pledge your support for Ukranian refugee families at www.sanctuaryfoundation.org.uk/#pledge