Church must fill 'political vacuum' over migration, says bishop

By staff writers
July 21, 2009

Following comments by an ex-minister at the weekend that the Government has failed to make a positive case for immigration, a bishop has said that the Catholic church should take a lead.

Bishop Patrick Lynch, Chair of the Office of Migration and Refugee policy of the Catholic bishops' Conference of England and Wales, highlighted the vacuum in political leadership on the question of migration and called for the Church to fill the void.

His comments came as James Purnell singled out the Government’s "failure" on highlighting the benefits of migration in an interview for the Guardian newspaper.

Bishop Lynch, speaking at the annual Justice and Peace conference, outlined the implications for migrants in the economic recession with rising tensions between British and overseas workers.

He called on those in the Church to welcome, walk with and empower migrants. "Our own experience with migrants and their families teaches us that welcoming and walking with always leads to empowering so that as people grow in knowledge and skills, in confidence and in hope they themselves – individually and collectively - are inspired and empowered to reach out to and work for justice for their fellow migrants,” he said.

He underscored the Church's position with reference to six elements of the social teachings on the subject.

Bishop Lynch was one of four main speakers to address the 31st annual Justice & Peace conference at Swanwick in Derbyshire.

Around 300 attended the event which used an open space format for the first time to address issues around he growth of the BNP, negative media coverage of migration and the need for a regularisation of undocumented workers.

The outcomes of the deliberation will form part of an action plan for the National Justice and Peace Network over the next year.

Don Flynn, of the Migrants Rights Network, who also spoke, called for faith groups, trade unions, citizens organisations and others working on migration to come together in solidarity. "There has been a generous response across the country to migrants. The big story is that refugees and migrants have found solidarity in local community and often the Church is the first friend available," said Don, who believes many of these groups work in isolation from others doing a similar thing down the road.

Mary Grey, Professor of Theology at St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, also called for recognition that the UK did not welcome asylum seekers, "practices torture and colludes in rendition of people around the world".

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