Saturday, 5 September 2015

Church leaders comment on the refugee crisis

Updated again Tuesday morning

There have been a few statements about the refugee crisis from Church of England bishops:

The Archbishop of Canterbury Archbishop of Canterbury on the refugee crisis

The Bishop of Ely Bishop of Ely statement on Syrian refugee crisis

The Bishop of Leeds Refugee crisis in Europe

The bishops of the Chelmsford diocese Churches pledge to welcome refugees in partnership with communities

The Bishop of Manchester A prayer for the refugee crisis
(Bishop Walker wrote about this topic for the Guardian back in April: Bishop of Manchester: I want leaders who look on migrants with compassion.)

The Dean of York: Refugee crisis: statement from the Very Reverend Vivienne Faull, the Dean of York

The bishops of West Yorkshire and The Dales The refugee crisis – a message from our Bishops

The Archbishop of York Seeking Sanctuary

There is a list of other not-so-recent responses here.

And also this list from around the Anglican Communion.

The Bishops of the Church in Wales have issued this joint statement: Bishops call on churches to help refugees

Please do let us know, via the comments, of any other statements.

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Categorised as: Church of England

Here are two more articles regarding the refugee crisis. The first one pertains to a statement signed by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and Adele Finney, executive director of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), the church’s relief and development arm.

The second is an October editorial for the Anglican Journal available on line now. It's a pretty straight talking piece.

Canada's Conservative government is somewhat philosophically aligned with the U.K. Cameron government on this issues. However, The Harper government in Canada has been responding to the crisis with election talking points in support of its policy of deploying the R.C.A.F for airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. The PM could act now, but is declining to do so until after the October 19th election. The child in the tragic and infamous photograph has family living on Canada's west coast. Church groups and others are demanding that the Canadian government step in and respond to the situation with the extraordinary measures the crisis demands.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 6 September 2015 at 12:45am BST

We live in a time of change. I'm not immune to feelings of nostalgia and elegy for this country as it was before mass immigration. That said, although it seemed on the face a felicitous and organic society that had evolved over a thousand years, I myself was brought up with privileges, was external to LGBT consciousness or awareness, belonged to a family that could enjoy the way of life, not to a family with grinding poverty. It was (as it remains) a stratified society.

The refugee crisis brings into head-on collision the immediate human need for compassion and (frankly) humanity... and the protection of privilege, the protection of ethnicity, of what "we" have, against what "they" need.

In all this, all I can think of is what Jesus said: "Who is my neighbour?"

Personally, I believe an underlying problem, not just in this country, is inequality of life opportunity, exploitation of the many for the benefit of the few, and an economic empire which operates to protect the wealth and privilege of those who already have.

Everyone has a right to a safe home.

Everyone has a right to respect and the respect of their families.

Everyone has a right to health provision.

Everyone has a right to education.

Everyone has a right to safety and belonging and being valued.

Although I do have nostalgic feelings for the past, in the face of devastated lives and human need, if I am human in the best sense, then I and our country perhaps have to let go of some of our privilege, in a time of change, and reduce the argument within ourselves to:

These people are my neighbours, and they are in desperate need, and surely we must help.

It then becomes a matter of being practical, while at the same time perhaps considering the need for radical change, both in this country, and beyond - in the face of systems of inequality and dispossession at an almost global level.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Sunday, 6 September 2015 at 9:51am BST

In a Facebook thread Alan Wilson commented:

"We started a war in the Middle East, radicalised Iraq (which was a largely secular state), caused a flood of refugees out into a simmering war zone, with the effect of destroying various vulnerable minorities, including Yazidis and some ancient Christian communities. This argument suggests that the responsibility for picking up the pieces rests solely with Turkey. What?!

Meanwhile the Germans, who had the good sense to stay out of Bush Wars and counselled everyone else to do so, take ten times as many refugees as we do. In the short term this is an act of charity. In the long term, of course, this will turn out to have been a canny move.

We know from the experience of absorbing waves of immigrants in the past that people who make it out of oppressive regimes usually bring great zeal to making a go of it in their new countries of residence. Some will eventually, DV, return to their original homelands taking with them a cultural affinity with Germany (which gains new influence in the region — soft power), a new language, and massively increased capacity to build a better society there. Others will stay in Germany, bringing energy and more than their fair share of productivity to the German economy. Win-Win.

Meanwhile our own glorious leaders have another plan. We coop up the refugees on a campsite surrounded by barbed wire with no visible means of support or permission to work or develop themselves until we've sorted out the entire politics of the middle East for them, then the economies of the region grow and those who remain prosper sufficiently to send their relatives in these camps the train fare home. I have no doubt which is the more stupid policy."

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 6 September 2015 at 10:23am BST

NZ Anglican and Catholic Church leaders urge PM John Key to increase NZ's refugee quota immediately:

Posted by: Simon W on Sunday, 6 September 2015 at 12:05pm BST

Well said, the various bishops (and one dean) cited above.

Given the quarter from which we seem to be seeing the greatest progress towards the 'language of welcome not suspicion' for which +Ely calls, I wonder what are the prospects for us negotiating a communion agreement with the EKD, along similar lines to Porvoo?

Posted by: Feria on Sunday, 6 September 2015 at 4:36pm BST

There's this from the Diocese of West Yorkshire and Dales

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 6 September 2015 at 6:13pm BST

I think the prime minister is right to be circumspect.The action of German government is disgraceful and will send out wrong signals. It will lead to benefits for the unscrupulous people movers. The Germans are facing a population decline, which only massive immigration can ameliorate and there is more to their generosity that meets the eye.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Sunday, 6 September 2015 at 7:04pm BST

Glad the C of E establishment is at last facing up to this. Interesting to note how far the Bishop of Manchester was ahead of the curve. Characteristically thoughtful contribution from Susannah. 'Inescapable responsibility' is a very good phrase and concept. In St Margaret's Durham at this morning's Eucharist Paul Regan delivered brilliant sermon on the theme, bouncing off the reading from James and the Gospel reading on Jesus and the Syro (=Syrian)-Phoenician woman and concluding: 'if Jesus could learn, so can we'.

Posted by: John on Sunday, 6 September 2015 at 9:02pm BST

John, across the water here in Maryland, at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Baltimore, we heard very much the same sermon from our retired diocesan bishop, the Rt. Rev. Robert Ihloff. This week's lectionary could hardly have been more on target!

Not from a bishop, but a powerful message from Giles Fraser in the Guardian the other day: .

I am much moved by the reports of efforts being made by ordinary citizens in the U.K. and across Europe to welcome and aid the refugees and to shame or pressure their governments into acting. Hope we can stir up more constructive action here in the U.S.

Posted by: Mary Clara on Monday, 7 September 2015 at 2:01am BST

Thank you, Mary Clara.

Posted by: John on Monday, 7 September 2015 at 10:00am BST

Reports of the migration crisis too readily blur the line between immigration and asylum. It's a crucial distinction: immigration's a privilege; asylum's a right.

Asylum is granted to save people from persecution, not for economic reasons, yet a great many of the migrants are crossing multiple safe counties in order to reach more favorable destinations. At that point, even if they began as refugees, they've become illegal immigrants.

Every country has the right to admit immigrants on terms that benefit its existing population, say by awarding points for education, skills, exceptional achievement in the arts, and so on. Refugee status shouldn't be misused to bypass them. Asylum should be claimed in the first safe country, then the normal immigration process followed down the line.

Political asylum is a fundamental right, on which all safe countries should cooperate: but part of that is ensuring that asylum claims are genuine, and that the burden doesn't fall on a handful of desirable nations.

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 7 September 2015 at 10:06am BST

the difficulty we're discovering is that the system of requiring asylum seekers to apply for asylum in the first country they reach is manifestly unfair and not practical in a major refugee crisis.

We cannot have tens of thousands of people overwhelm the ability of the Greek islands to process them, while closing our eyes just because our richer EU countries benefit from the geographic accident of not being close by.

This crisis shows that our system is no longer working effectively. If the concept of the EU means anything, it has to mean that we adapt to new realities and find a pan-European way of dealing with the problem.

And while we do that, we also take immediate humanitarian action and let refugees into Austria, Germany, Sweden and Britain etc.
Because not to do so on the grounds of technicalities would be the most appalling dereliction of our shared moral responsibility.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 7 September 2015 at 10:33am BST


You didn't name the "multiple safe countries" of which you speak. I have a sneaking suspicion that, if you did, it would reveal a pretty loose definition of the word "safe".

Posted by: Feria on Monday, 7 September 2015 at 1:07pm BST

Feria, to name a few: Greece, Italy, Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. All EU members, all established liberal democracies, all bypassed en route to Germany. An argument could certainly be made to include Turkey.

Erika, the issue is less allocating refugees around Europe -- I agree it'd be unfair to put the burden on Greece and Hungary -- than it is a sizable number of the migrants just not fitting the definition of refugee outlined in the 1951 convention. This is no technicality, it's substantive.

My heart breaks to see people so desperate, but that does nothing to help them, and however much I want to, I can't agree with rewriting international law on the fly. If we do, the justification for asylum vanishes, and we have no grounds on which to fairly assess immigration. Unless everyone can come in, these distinctions, harsh as they are, must be upheld.

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 7 September 2015 at 6:04pm BST

The reality is that the governments of the Anglo-sphere countries, including the Cameron government in the U.K. the Harper government in Canada, joined perhaps by the government in France, are manipulating the migrant crisis in terms of a long game for leveraging increased militarism in the middle east.

The perverse irony is that Cameron, Harper and their ilk, just maybe, will use the refugee crisis as a vehicle for getting boots on the ground. Assuming of course that special forces from all these countries are likely already there.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 7 September 2015 at 9:18pm BST

Re: please do let us know, via the comments, of any other statements:

Posted by: Julia Redfern on Monday, 7 September 2015 at 9:39pm BST

James, I just had a quick flick through the relevant country reports from the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, paying particular attention to the sections on racist violence, and police and judicial responses to it. In the light of what I've read there, if I were a Muslim (or Jewish or Roma) refugee, I would be _very_ disinclined to regard Austria, Hungary or the Czech Republic as a "safe country". And I think I have a good idea what the average Kurd would make of any argument that Turkey is a "safe country".

I also invite you to agree that a country that would normally be safe (and here I think of Greece and Italy) can become very unsafe for refugees if (perhaps due to economic circumstances beyond the control of the government of that country) the time taken to assess asylum applications, and the restrictions placed on applicants during that process, reach a level capable of significantly harming the applicant's physical or mental health.

Posted by: Feria on Tuesday, 8 September 2015 at 12:28am BST

Apparently the refugees include many Palestinians fleeing the occupied west bank. Notice how the Chief Rabbi spoke out about the humanitarian need to help the refugees. Surely that is significant as he was silent throughout the Gaza Israeli counter attack.

Germany has made herself a magnet , with no consideration for other other European nations like Hungary , Macedonia or Serbia.

Why is no one is critical of the Turks for turning a blind eye to the smugglers operating in Eastern Turkey.

I was pleased with the prime ministers numbers.. I feel he got it about right. We will be able to screen the people carefully and sift out undesirables.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Tuesday, 8 September 2015 at 7:09am BST

to an extent, laws are reactive. They are made in response to certain situation.
The current law is not capable of dealing successfully with the appalling situation in Syria (that is part of our own making!).

It is right that compassion overrides legalism and that these people are processed properly in a safe place where they can be looked after in a humane way.

Parliament around the world can then sit down and debate the implications this should have for their respective laws.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 8 September 2015 at 9:10am BST

I would say there's the same tension between enacting the law and enacting the spirit of the law. We know so well from the stories of our own faith.
We know which side we're called to be on.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 8 September 2015 at 9:24am BST

Trying to discern the difference between a migrant and a refugee (having compassion for the former as well as the latter) is really the crux of the matter. We really need the Wisdom of Solomon . . . as well as the Heart of Jesus.

In my idealism, part of me really thinks "they're just lines on a map---an abstraction---and shouldn't carry the (often violent) weight of 'borders'".

But we can't have EVERY person who wants better than they currently have, going to 'region x' on the globe, either. It's a very sticky wicket. God, grant us More Light!

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 8 September 2015 at 9:27am BST

Further to Feria's comment @12.28, I would observe the following: earlier this summer our media was dominated by the economic crisis in Greece. Greece is, for many of these refugees/migrants, the inevitable first point of entry to the EU. They simply cannot support the number of people arriving on their shores. That isn't an argument in favour of any particular government's policy; it is simply a statement of fact. If the EU wants people to be registered and supported in Greece, the EU collectively is going to have to take responsibility for that one way or another.

Posted by: Hannah on Tuesday, 8 September 2015 at 9:36am BST

@ JFC, "God, grant us More Light!" It ain't more prayin that is needed. It's less mud thrown in the waters by right wing governments.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Tuesday, 8 September 2015 at 12:28pm BST

I am sure that we have all seen the pictures of towns and cities devastated by the wars in Syria. The contrast with what was there before is heart breaking. No wonder those who flee do so in despair. How on earth are they going to rebuild? The recovery of European cities from the bombing of WW2 took a generation. And that couldn't start until the fighting stopped and there was massive aid from the US. (of course the USSR dominated east was another matter)

But where to flee to? The choice seems to be either a refugee camp in a place which doesn't really want you, with hundreds of thousands mouldering away in tents and living on hand outs. Or leaving the area with your family and dignity intact and making you way to somewhere safe, with the opportunity to rebuild your lives and make some sort of positive contribution to your host nation. Perhaps even to be able to return home, still fit and healthy and start the long process of rebuilding. At least that way there is the possibility of hope.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 8 September 2015 at 12:55pm BST

This is from the Diocese of Chichester

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 8 September 2015 at 1:12pm BST

Feria, Germany's Turkish population have also experienced discrimination and violence, is Germany not then a safe country; Paris is ringed by the banlieues, in which an Algerian minority endure discrimination and violence, is France then an unsafe country? Safe country is not a synonym for perfect country: you've raised the bar far higher than any refugee treaty.

Erika, legalism is blind adherence to the law, however misguided or ineffective; nither judgment applies to the 1951 Convention. I've agreed that it's reasonable to show flexibility in allocating refugees, but to do so, claims must be genuine, and registered at the first safe country, with subsequent reallocation worked out amongst governments, not by those seeking asylum.

Posted by: James Byron on Tuesday, 8 September 2015 at 4:43pm BST

The Bishop of Warrington issued this statement.

Posted by: Peter Owen on Tuesday, 8 September 2015 at 6:23pm BST

Heard an interesting account by a Syrian on Welsh radio, who claims that his country is being emptied of people. Meanwhile Chancellor Merkel says Germany can take 500,000 asylum seekers for several years yet. This shows that her motives are ulterior and linked to selfish German economic concerns.Contraception/ abortion has killed Europe and now immigration will change it forever.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Tuesday, 8 September 2015 at 7:47pm BST


The bar in the refugee treaties _is_ high enough to detect that even some EU member states are not always "safe countries" for everyone. That's why, in 2013 (the last year for which data are available), the United States granted asylum to at least 64 nationals of EU member states (mostly Romanians, along with a handful of Bulgarians, Latvians, Greeks and Estonians). (And as the US criminal justice system is not ECHR-compliant, I'm guessing that the converse also applies, i.e. EU countries probably granted asylum to a few Americans.)

Posted by: Feria on Tuesday, 8 September 2015 at 10:47pm BST

Feria, given that any one of those 64 nationals could've moved to another EU state, no-questions-asked, I'm dubious about the asylum claims. If they're genuine, refugees who refuse to register in the first EU country they enter would have to be motivated by a fear of persecution, not a desire to reach Europe's largest economy.

In the alternative, given that a federal judge gave asylum to the Romeike family on the grounds that they wanted to homeschool their children (initially overturned on appeal, only for deportation to be halted at the eleventh hour by Washington), anything that applies to those EU countries applies also to Germany.

A handful of U.S. citizens have applied for asylum in the EU, for some reason, in Sweden. To my knowledge, they've all been sent packing. Asylum isn't granted for violating the ECHR, and even if it were, given that it fails to protect several rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution -- civil and criminal jury trial, right to keep and bear arms, unrestricted free speech -- there'd be no guarantee of success.

Posted by: James Byron on Wednesday, 9 September 2015 at 9:07pm BST

Robert Ian Williams: Germany's generous response to the refugee crisis based on a declining population caused by contraception and abortion seems to be the party line of a particularly nasty strain of conservative Roman Catholicism. I read it on Fr Ray Blake's blog. Where did you find it?

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Wednesday, 9 September 2015 at 9:51pm BST

By 2060, Germany's population of 81 million is projected to fall to 71 million, while the UK, a vastly smaller land mass, will overtake it to become the most populous EU nation, rising from its current 64 million to 80 million.

The dependency ratio in Germany — the ratio of pensioners to working-age people whose taxes support them — is set to rise to 59%. That means the taxes of roughly more than one working German will have to support 2 retired Germans.

Read more:

Posted by: robert ian williams on Thursday, 10 September 2015 at 12:10pm BST

I don't see any correlation between this demographic effect and your purported cause.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Thursday, 10 September 2015 at 6:52pm BST

In the meantime - Comrade Putin is supplying arms and logistical help to President Assad. How will this help the crisis in the Middle East?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 11 September 2015 at 1:33am BST

And this too from Chichester

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Saturday, 12 September 2015 at 8:40pm BST
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