CHURCHES HAVE BEEN CALLING ON the UK Government to recognise its moral obligations to the Afghan people. They have urged the Government to expand safe and legal routes for migration and offer sanctuary to those who need it.
Speaking in the House of Lords on 18 August, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: “We owe an absolute, lavishly generous moral covenant to all those who are at risk because they served with us in Afghanistan or took seriously our frequently professed commitment to its future, women and girls included. An Afghan refugee, now a UK citizen said to me this week, ‘families in such times of trouble belong together’. His words are not politics but humanity. This is about morals not numbers. Will the Government confirm that their policy will reflect moral obligation and not be controlled by numbers?”
Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain said: ‘‘Current UK policy means that many migrants have no choice but to risk their lives on dangerous journeys to Britain and face hardship and a hostile environment when they arrive. This will be made worse by proposals in the Nationality and Borders Bill currently going through parliament. Now is not the time to harden our hearts to vulnerable people forced to flee their homes. Instead we need to change our approach to one that emphasises our common humanity.
“The chaotic scenes unfolding on our screens are bringing home the human tragedy of a long series of military conflicts. We urge all involved to work for peaceful solutions and to prioritise human rights, dignity and wellbeing.
“Quakers believe in the sanctity of all human life. That leads us to reject the wisdom of military intervention as a ‘solution’ to conflict or terrorist acts. In 2001, when British military intervention in Afghanistan was considered, Quakers in Britain urged the UK government to take an alternative approach, stating, ‘It is the roots of violence which have to be addressed. It is our experience that these lie in the way our world community is organised.’”
For the Methodist Church, the Rev Sonia Hicks and Barbara Easton, President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, said: “Following our military involvement, the UK bears a heavy responsibility towards the people of Afghanistan and must act to support all who fear for their future and seek asylum. Over the course of this conflict, members of our churches have been supporting those who have been forced to flee and at this critical time our response must be one of compassion and generosity.
“Methodist chaplains have served members of our Armed Forces in Afghanistan over the past 20 years and we are mindful of them and of all who bear the scars of this conflict. We remember particularly those still serving, veterans, civilian colleagues and their families for whom the current situation in Afghanistan may be evoking difficult memories.
“Our hearts go out to women in Afghanistan who have taken the opportunity to lead in many ways, making contributions in their communities, business and politics. They now fear that these freedoms will be reversed. We call on all governments everywhere to uphold the empowerment of women and to ensure that the new government in Afghanistan maintains the freedoms that have been gained in recent years.”
Lord Wallace, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland said: “The General Assembly has taken a keen interest in developments in Afghanistan since 2002 and it is with great sadness and horror that we are watching this humanitarian crisis unfold.
“We stand in prayer and solidarity with all those who fear oppression and violence which puts the lives of millions of people at risk and displaces thousands.
“The Bible makes it clear that we must care for and support those who are oppressed and seeking sanctuary. We urge the UK Government to take immediately all possible action to protect those lives and the dignity of endangered Afghan people.
“Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed a deliverance calling for the development of safe and legal routes for people desperately seeking sanctuary so that they can travel, live, work and contribute to our society.
“We urge the UK Government to establish an extended resettlement programme and end attempts to return people who have been refused asylum to Afghanistan. We must allow more people to make use of family reunion rights so they can join their relatives who have settled in the UK. The government should also ensure that Afghans will not be penalised for seeking refuge in the UK via ‘irregular routes’ which is being proposed under the Nationality and Borders Bill.”
Lord Wallace is also inviting people to join senior church leaders from Britain and Ireland in prayer at 5pm on Thursday 19 August, through an online event organised by Christian Aid. More information here.
* Read Justin Welby’s full speech in the House of Lords here