Theologian will attack asylum debate assumptions - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
February 8, 2005

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Theologian will attack asylum debate assumptions


The Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey, one of Britainís most prestigious and historic churches, will next week launch a major assault on the language and assumptions of the current political debate about asylum. His considered and forthright contribution to the discussion is likely to unease both government and opposition.

As Labour and Conservative politicians line up for votes by seeing who can be "nastiest to asylum seekers" (in the words of former trade union leader Sir Bill Morris), Nicholas Sagovsky, who is also Visiting Professor in Theology and Public Life at Liverpool Hope University College, will argue that Christian tradition dictates a robust belief in asylum for all who need it.

Professor Sagovskyís lecture will be delivered in Westminster Abbey, where the controversial churchman Charles Gore was also a Canon. The lecture is one of a regular series in his honour. Charles Gore (1853-1932) was noted for bringing together a robust belief in traditional Christian doctrine with a radical agenda for social reform.

The venue is highly appropriate because ësanctuaryí for those fleeing persecution was afforded within the precincts of Westminster Abbey until the early seventeenth century.

The ëFaith in Asylumí lecture will explore what was intended by the concept of ëasylumí in the Refugee Convention of 1951 and why it is essential that Britain and other European countries hold to their obligations under that Convention, says the Abbey's publicity.

Professor Sagovsky will explore what British asylum policy would look like if it were really dictated by ëfaith in asylumí. It will argue that Christian churches and others with ëfaith in asylumí, especially those in other faith communities, should together undertake a major investigation of the workings of the immigration and asylum system in Britain.

Nicholas Sagovsky was previously Dean of Clare College, Cambridge and then William Leech Professor in Applied Christian Theology at Newcastle University. He has been a member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) for ten years and has written widely on ecumenism and on issues in political theology.

He has given help with the chaplaincy at Oakington Immigration Reception Centre (as it then was) and is now a member of the Churchesí Refugee Network. He is currently at work on a study of ëChristian tradition and the Practice of Justiceí.

The 2005 Charles Gore Lecture takes place at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday 15th February 2005, starting at 8pm. There will be no charge for attending.

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