Community funeral held for young asylum seeker in Glasgow

Strangers have come together to hold a community funeral in Glasgow for a young mother from Georgia, who died leaving a 10-year-old son.

Around 40 residents attended an ecumenical service on Friday at Springburn Parish Church for the 35-year-old woman, who has been named only as Ana.

She had claimed asylum in the UK along with her son after fleeing the former Soviet state several years ago.

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The Church of Scotland and the Catholic church in Glasgow arranged a Georgian Orthodox Church style-service to enable the boy and his family to say goodbye. Born and raised in Georgia, a small country on the crossroads between eastern Europe and western Asia, the woman had been suffering from a long illness.

The ecumenical service was led by the Rev. Brian Casey (left) and Father John McGrath.

Springburn Parish Church minister, the Rev. Brian Casey, said it was “heart-warming” and a true measure of local community spirit that so many people turned out to express love, faith and prayers for her son, who was described as “the centre of her life”.

“Ana’s death is tragic and very sad but we were so glad to be able to give that Glasgow welcome to her family,” he said. “Irrespective of people’s faith or creed, we are here to serve them in the way Christ served people of the Jewish faith or no faith,” he added.

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The ecumenical service was led by the Rev. Brian Casey (left) and Father John McGrath.

The service in Sprignburn, in the north of the city, was co-led by Father John McGrath, parish priest at the local St Aloysius Church. It included Georgian Orthodox Church traditions such as the recital of the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus Christ.

Incense was burned in a Thurible, a metal censer suspended from chains, with the smoke wafted over the closed casket. The aromatic material is understood by the Orthodox Church as symbolising the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit and the prayers of the Saints rising to heaven.

Mourners, who also included members of the Georgian community in Glasgow, held lit candles.

Mr Casey was asked to organise the funeral by the headmaster of Ana’s son’s school. “It was heartwarming to see so many local people attend to show support for a grieving family,” he added. “Despite its problems, Springburn has a very strong community and we can still come together and support people in times of need.

“I am a chaplain at Ana’s son’s school and was asked if I could help give him some kind of closure because his mother’s body is being sent back to Georgia to be buried and he wouldn’t have been able to attend the funeral.

“I contacted my colleague Father McGrath and we worked together to bring the faith community of Springburn together to celebrate the life of Ana.”

Mr Casey said it was one of the “hardest” funerals he has ever conducted because people of the Orthodox faith are much more outgoing in the way they grieve.

“We did our best to honour the Orthodox Church’s traditions which is somewhere between the Church of Scotland and Catholic Church liturgically,” he added.

“It was an emotional day but we have given the family a chance to grieve properly and I hope we can support them on an ongoing basis.”

The future of Ana’s son, who has lived in Glasgow since he was three, is uncertain as his mother was waiting the outcome of an appeal for asylum.

Mr Casey and Father McGrath have set up an appeal to raise money to support the youngster and have raised £700 so far.

Father McGrath said he was so moved by Ana’s story that he did not hesitate to try and help. “It was a great honour to be invited to help the family because some of the symbols we use in the Catholic faith resonate more with them,” he added.