Anglican Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu will give the Evangelical Alliance’s annual Temple Address tonight, calling on the churches to support migrants and helping to launch the Alliance’s ‘Don’t be a Stranger’ campaign and photographic exhibition.
The event will be attended by MPs, media figures, religious leaders and experts working in the field of migration.
The exhibition, and accompanying booklet and website, showcases the work of Christians and churches alongside migrants and people seeking asylum.
From Tongan rugby players in Wales to a Vietnamese boat person turned doctor in Norfolk, migrants’ stories will be featured in an appeal to show compassion to those arriving in Britain - and not just at Christmas.
"Jesus doesn’t ask us just to love those we would naturally share Christmas dinner with,” says Dr R David Muir, Executive Director, Public Policy for the Evangelical Alliance. “Instead, he challenges us to re-evaluate who our neighbours are and to welcome those we consider to be strangers.
“Our campaign seeks to commend those who are already doing this and to call on others to follow their example. Inviting someone you don’t know to your home for a meal is a great way to build community, and we call on everyone – no matter your background – to give this a try this Christmas.”
Dr Muir is inviting members of the public to illustrate this by sending pictures and stories of friendships to add to the exhibition, which will tour the UK as part of the ‘Don’t be a Stranger’ campaign.
The Rev Arlington Trotman, Moderator of the ecumenical Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe, commented: “One of the things individual Christians can do is just say hello, just get to meet the person who might appear to be a stranger.”
He continued: “When people come in to your churches, there is a fundamentally theological responsibility we have – not just to welcome by saying that word but actually making people feel part and parcel of the community. People who are migrants make substantial contributions to the economic, religious, political and cultural life in Britain and Ireland.”
The migrants featured in the exhibition speak poignantly about being assisted by local churches. The Rev Irfan John and his family were granted asylum in May 2006 after fleeing from Pakistan. He lives in Cardiff and is employed by the Methodist Church in Wales to work with ethnic minority congregations.
“We have been welcomed very warmly by the church,” he declared. “I believe that due to problems with language it is sometimes difficult, but as Christians we all know one language, the language of love.”
Visit the initiative on the web: www.nostrangers.org.uk