Churches and civic groups across the country have come together in support of a campaign to end the detention of families seeking sanctuary in Britain.
The Citizens for Sanctuary pledge warns that Britain’s history of providing sanctuary to people in difficulty is being threatened by the rise of extremist politics, tabloid scare stories, and gross failings in the political system.
The pledge asks politicians to support policies aimed at ending the detention of children and families seeking immigration decisions, and not to demean those seeking sanctuary in Britain.
The initiative backs a “culture of sanctuary” and asks political, civic and religious leaders to help the general public to understand why offering a safe haven is vital to the health of all of us.
Last week, the Catholic Bishop for Migrants, Patrick Lynch, urged politicians to back the pledge.
“The Church has repeatedly taken up an advocacy role in the defence of human rights and dignity," he declared.
Lynch continued: "The Catholic Church has enhanced its commitment on behalf of vulnerable migrants, especially women and minors and will continue to develop and increase its cooperation with governments, civil society and local authorities in responding to the needs of migrants and advocating for their dignity and rights.”
The pledge has already been signed by the Church of England, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and The Salvation Army.
The Rev John Marsh, Moderator of the United Reformed Church, said signing the pledge would show that political candidates were serious about offering sanctuary to those who cannot find safety in their homelands.
“As Christians, we are called to love our neighbours as ourselves, and the Citizens for Sanctuary campaign encourages us to do just that,” he declared.
The General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Rev Jonathan Edwards, reiterated that he was concerned about the effect of detention on children and young people in particular.
“There is overwhelming evidence that holding children in detention centres is damaging to their physical and emotional wellbeing,” said Edwards.
He added: “Children are particularly vulnerable, and no matter where they are from, we all have a duty to protect them from harm.”
Ekklesia is a backer of Citizens for Sanctuary. For more information go to: http://www.citizensforsanctuary.org.uk/