Sentamu criticises treatment of asylum seekers and Ugandan anti-gay bill

By staff writers
December 24, 2009

The Anglican Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has criticised both inhuman UK policy on asylum seekers and the anti-homosexuality bill currently going through the Ugandan parliament.

In an article in today’s Times newspaper, Dr Sentamu accuses the British Government of exploiting the weak by making it more difficult for asylum seekers to make legitimate claims to stay in the country.

He also warns that cuts in financial support will leave many people who have fled from mistreatment destitute this Christmas and he condemns the reduction in benefits to £5 a day for single asylum seekers.

The archbishop said that this “meagre” sum was the same amount he received when he arrived in Britain in 1974 after fleeing from Idi Amin’s Uganda.

In a busy media day, Dr Sentamu also appeared on the flagship BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning to make clear his concern about the private members bill currently going through the Ugandan parliament, which would further criminalise homosexuality and bring in the death penalty for gay people with HIV.

The archbishop, a former judge in Uganda, agreed that the bill “demonised” homosexual persons and said that instead, Anglicans should instead be listening to gay people, affirming their full humanity, and making it clear that they were loved by God.

He said it was important to understand the current legal move in the context of an existing legal code which went back to punitive legislation dating from the colonial era of the last century, and which predated the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Britain in 1967 – a move backed by the then Archbishop of Canterbury.

These existing provisions were "bad enough already" he said, making his general opposition to capital punishment clear.

Dr Sentamu said that he and Dr Rowan Williams had been careful in their comments up to now because they were working behind the scenes and because they did not want to be seen as lecturing others.

The archbishop said that the Anglican Church in Uganda was still considering its further response.

Human rights and church campaigners have urged church leaders to speak out against the bill, with many thousands signing petitions and joining a Facebook lobby group.

The latest condemnations have come from the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) and the Anglican Church in Wales, joining the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church, the World Council of Churches, the European Union and many others - including groups in the global South.

Meanwhile, a statement of support for the execution of gay people coming from the extremist UK Christian, Stephen Green of the tiny lobby group Christian Voice, has been widely condemned.

Turning to asylum seekers, Dr Sentamu said that the new regulations effecting their support were harsh and restrictive. “It won’t be possible to carry money over from one week to the next, or even buy clothes in charity shops… It will make it even more difficult for people already struggling to find enough to pay for food and other essentials. There must be a better way.”

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