Scottish Church leaders have joined with colleagues across Britain and Ireland to mark Epiphany with a plea to the UK Government on immigration.
The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Moderator of the United Free Church General Assembly and the Secretary of the Church & Society Committee of the National Synod of Scotland have joined more than a dozen leading Christians working on issues of migration to urge the UK Government to rethink its approach to immigration.
As MPs return to Westminster after the Christmas recess, politicians are encouraged to move away from a ‘hostile environment’ and towards a culture of sanctuary. The message has been sent on Epiphany, when Christians remember the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus prior to the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt to escape from persecution.
In an open letter to the government, published on Sunday 6 January, the faith leaders wrote:
“As representatives of faith communities, we are dismayed by the current debate around immigration. The long-awaited Immigration white paper is misguided and disjointed, the promised engagement unclear, and the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination Bill a missed opportunity.
“Urgent action is needed to create a more humane system. Refugee families must be kept together, and close family members allowed to join their children in the UK. The right to work after six months should be extended to all people seeking asylum. There must be a time limit on immigration detention, an end to the detention of vulnerable people, and a genuine discussion about the often impossible standards of proof required by the immigration system. The first reaction to those arriving in boats should not be to disbelieve their stories.
“Today is Epiphany, the twelfth day of Christmas; the story of the flight of the Holy Family echoes the plight of refugees around the world. We say to the government: let us help you transform the hostile environment, not into a compliant environment, but into a culture of sanctuary.”
The list of signatories is:
John Adegoke, Chair, Unification Council of Cherubim and Seraphim Churches, Europe Chapter
The Rt. Revd Jonathan Clark, Bishop of Croydon
John Collings, Secretary of the Church & Society Committee of the National Synod of Scotland of the United Reformed Church
Dr Patrick Coyle, Chair of Cytûn: Churches Together in Wales
John P Cross, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Free Church of Scotland
The Most Revd John Davies, Archbishop of Wales
The Revd Canon Aled Edwards OBE, CEO Cytûn: Churches Together in Wales
Derek Estill, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church
Bob Fyffe, General Secretary, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland
The Revd Fleur Houston, Churches Refugee Network and retired United Reformed Church minister
The Rt. Revd Richard Jackson, Bishop of Lewes
The Revd Dr Stephen Keyworth, Faith and Society Team Leader, Baptist Union of Great Britain
Derek McAuley, Chief Officer, General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches
Kathy Mohan, CEO, Housing Justice
The Revd Judith Morris, General Secretary, Baptist Union of Wales
Paul Parker, Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain
The Rt. Revd Joanna Penberthy, Bishop of St Davids
Most Revd Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness, and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church