In 1947, in the middle of the worst winter of the century, a young Church of Scotland military chaplain with British forces in Germany was approached by a former Luftwaffe bomber pilot, who told him about the plight of 80,000 nearby German refugees, who were nearly frozen to death. Could the minister help? Douglas Lister went with him to see the refugees. He was horrified by what he saw. He found babies wrapped in newspapers. The refugees had very little to eat. He knew he had to help these starving people.

High Command refused permission on the grounds that it would be fraternisation with the enemy. Douglas approached his friend, Captain John Althorp, for his advice. 'Good God: said Althorp, 'these poor people are no enemies! Fight the High Command!'

He did. 'As my order as chaplain is to serve people regardless of race, colour or religion, I wish to appeal against the rule in question: he said in his letter to the High Command.' I consider it my duty to help those people in their need if I possibly can. I would be grateful if you could give me permission to do so.' He won the appeal.

Letters were sent to Scotland asking for support, to help the German refugees survive the winter hardship - all this only two years after a war in which many Scots had lost loved ones. As a result of the campaigning efforts of Mr Lister and Captain Althorp, and chaplains across Europe, many churches rallied to the cause. The lives of hundreds of so-called 'enemies' were saved.

As a result of this cooperation, the Inter-Church Refugee Service was born. It developed in time into Christian Aid.

From story told by Ron Ferguson in an article by Kathy Galloway, the Head of Christian Aid Scotland, that appeared in the Autumn 2011 edition of Coracle, the magazine of the Iona Community.

The Origin of Christian Aid Close