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Given on 20th June for the Stories of Welcome Event at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street.


This evening we will hear stories of welcome, I would like to tell you such a story, though it is not what you might expect. It happened on the coast of Northern France when I visited the areas where those attempting to cross the Channel were gathering. It was very cold November morning I visited a place where those hoping to find a way to England assembled. In one particular place a group of young men had lit a fire in a clearing with some broken tree branches. When we approached, I was with a group who regularly visited them with hot drinks, they rose and invited us to come and take their place close to the fire. They had nothing, they had lost everything but had not lost the capacity for hospitality and compassion. 

I experienced this again recently on a visit to Napier Barracks in Folkestone to meet those who are housed there.  The young men related accounts of treacherous journeys across the Mediterranean and the English Channel. A simple, open end question was asked by a member of the visiting party ‘What would you like for yourself?’ The reply was ‘I would like to see my mother’. Through such encounters minds are opened, it is seen that refugees want those things we all want.  They possess all the qualities which make us human though they often experience rejection and a sense of meaning little to anyone.

Image and Likeness of God

Welcoming the Stranger is integral to our faith, not an add on. Welcoming and supporting refugees is derived from what we believe, our Faith. Made in the image and likeness of God, human beings have an infinite worth. Attitudes which undermine their value need to be challenged. Unfortunately those same attitudes can be enshrined in policy.  Anything that impinges upon the humanity of refugees has to be resisted.

In the theological approach keeps the human issue at the centre each person because each person has a dignity. Regardless of their citizenship, visa status or mode of arrival human dignity and rights of asylum seekers must be respected. It always takes priority even before the national interest.  

Christ has united and associated himself with everyone.  He identifies himself as the one to be cared for, especially in the well known passage about the Last Judgement, Matthew 25.  ‘I was a stranger and you visited -  fed - clothed me’.

Assistance  given to migrants, refugees, displaced person, asylum seekers is not simply almsgiving or kindness but an act of justice. Solidarity with the most vulnerable comes from believing that are fellow members of the human family and our resources have to be shared with them.


We have met refugees and asylum and learned that they have their own story but tragically there are over 85 million such displaced people in the world. The conflicts and imbalances in the world leading to such displacement has caused some to describe the refugee crisis as a great wound, a global wound. When a patient comes to a medical practitioner we hope that they are not seen as a problem but someone to be tended to and healed. It is the same with migrants and refugees, welcoming them is to participate in the healing process, otherwise they are looked upon as a problem. In listening to the needs of migrants and refugees, we are listening to God. Pope Francis we know when addressing the issue of migrants and refugees often in the same breath speaks of the Good Samaritan. When someone is injured they will remain injured unless someone is willing to go to their aid.


It is important to understanding the reasons for migration. War, natural calamities, persecution and discrimination of every kind deprive millions of their home, employment, family and homeland. And it is important to acknowledge that we are not entirely blameless.  Our contribution to the climate emergency results in droughts, disasters and displacement thousands of miles away. Pope Francis says the cry of the poor and the cry of the Earth cannot be separated.  Humanity we know is interconnected and therefore  decisions and actions in one part of the world affect those far away. 

The truth and the reality of the current situation needs to be presented, which means among other things challenging the rhetoric of those opposed to migration and assisting refugees. 


In recent months those concerned about migrants and refugees in this country have also been concerned about the law, particularly the Nationality and Borders Bill, now Act. The purpose of the law is to serve justice and mercy. When the law inflicts trauma, stress and suffering on asylum seekers through indefinite detention and now deportation I isn’t upholding justice and mercy.  The suffering of those who are already victims is compounded. What are national borders for, what is their purpose?  They are for the protection of people but today we see them used for the exclusion of people seeking protection.  Nations do have a right to regulate migration, into their country, but at the same there is a duty to protect and help those fleeing poverty and persecution and provide what is needed to live a dignified life. We believe to banish someone from seeking protection is wrong. 

Right to Seek Asylum

We always keep in mind that It is not illegal to seek asylum. Anyone whose life is threatened has the right to protection.  Persecution, danger and displacement cause people to migrate and seek asylum by crossing borders without documents and passports. It is the right of human persons to migrate so that they can be safe and achieve a better life for themselves and their children.


Why are we here this evening, why are we interested in the cause of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, why do we want to hear their stories.  For us it is not a pastime, a way to spend some free time, a vague sense of doing something valuable.  Seeking to reach and assist refugees is much more profound, it is our obligations as Christians. 

I find it remarkable and humbling how in the midst of suffering the faith refugees have in God and his goodness remain strong. I once met a refugee from Mali who began or ended all he said with the word,  ‘Inshallah’, which as you probably know means, ‘If God wishes’. God has made a wish, it is his will that we assist our brothers and sisters in need and oppose all that denies them that assistance. Thank you for all you are doing to promote the cause of refugees to provide them with the help they need.