Church leaders urge greater support for asylum seekers

By staff writers
February 7, 2008

Church leaders in West Yorkshire issued a statement yesterday raising concerns about the Government's asylum policy.

Endorsed by bishops and leaders of the main denominations in the region it highlighted the work that many churches across the country are engaged in, supporting asylum seekers.

The Church Leaders highlighted six issues including the prejudice that exists towards asylum seekers, and the failure of the legal process to ensure justice for asylum seekers.

The statement called for improved legal representation for those seeking asylum and for asylum seekers to be allowed to work in the UK. The also highlighted the trauma involved in deportation.

Churches were also urged to join in greater numbers the ongoing work to support asylum seekers.

In his introduction to the Huddersfield event, the Revd. Ernie Whalley, Regional Minister of the Baptist Church and Chair of West Yorkshire Ecumenical Council said: "Two thousand years ago, Jesus told a story about responding to the needs of the hungry, the thirsty, the sick and the prisoner. The list also includes 'welcoming the stranger'.

"Then we read: 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of one of these sisters and brothers of mind, you did for me.'

"Down through the centuries, the Christian Church has sought to live this out - to offer hospitality, Christian involvement in the establishment of our first hospitals was one aspect of this. We believe that our hospitality reflects the welcome of God. Today, we extend our welcome towards those seeking asylum."

The statement was launched at a press conference, in front of a backdrop of a tapestry constructed of panels based on the hands of women and children asylum seekers in Bradford.

Signatories to the statement included:

Anglican bishops of Wakefield, Bradford, and Ripon & Leeds,
Catholic Bishop of Leeds,
Chairs of the Leeds and West Yorkshire Methodist Districts,
Moderator of the Yorkshire Synod of the United Reformed Church,
Baptist Regional Minister,
Chair of the Yorkshire Moravian District,
Divisional Commander of the Salvation Army,
Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Great Britain,
Chair of the West Yorkshire African Caribbean Council of Churches.

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