Christians in Oldham living as refused asylum seekers

By agency reporter
7 Mar 2008

A number of Christians from Oldham are joining the national Endurance Challenge, backed by Church Action on Poverty, in which they attempt to live off £6.50 for food and £3.50 for transport for a week - as many asylum seekers do.

The gesture is one of solidarity, of spiritual challenge, and of witness against the mistreatment of those seeking refuge in Britain.

When an asylum seeker's case is refused, the Home Office allows them two weeks' notice to leave their accommodation at which time their £37 weekly support is stopped.

Oldham Unity, which is supported by a wide variety of residents including church members, provides food weekly which refused asylum seekers can select to the value of £6.50. The Red Cross provides another £3.50 for bus fares.

Throughout Britain people are choosing different periods in Lent, the Christian season of fasting and reflection, but most of the Oldhamers participating are choosing the week beginning on Monday 10 March, reports Independent Catholic News (ICN).

The heart of the issue is the lack of adequate legal support. Refused asylum seekers often feel that they have good grounds for their claim, but that they have been poorly represented. Many they prefer a life of destitution to what they fear will happen to them if they return to their home country.

Some of those taking part in the Endurance Challenge will aim to live on the same diet as that of the spinners of Oldham during the Cotton Famine of the 1860's.

During the American Civil War the Union blockaded the Confederate shipping so that little cotton arrived in Lancashire. And so spinners and weavers were reduced to a diet of oatmeal, tea and nettles. But some of them even wrote letters of support to President Abraham Lincoln in his struggle on behalf of the slaves. This is a great source of inspiration to those taking part in the Endurance Challenge, they say.

Some will donate the cash they have saved for the week to Oldham Unity, for refused asylum seekers. Mmebers of the public and other Christian groups and individulas are also welcome to do so, at: Oldham Unity, c/o Oldham Trades Union Congress, PO Box 392, Oldham, OL1 1WY.

So far, nationally, at least 100 people have taken part in the Endurance Challenge 2008.

Church Action on Poverty is an ecumenical Christian charity, supported by all the main Christian churches, and campaigns for lasting solutions to UK poverty. For more information see: www.church-poverty.org.uk

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