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Christians called to offer sanctuary to refugees

by Donna Birrell

Christians and others are being encouraged to welcome a refugee or asylum-seeker into their homes as part of a new initiative.

The Hospitality Pledge is being launched this evening and will work with international charities and the church to speak up for the displaced.

It's being led by Dr Krish Kandiah with the aim of encouraging people to offer a sanctuary to those who are persecuted or fleeing conflict. He tells Premier that offering sanctuary is at the heart of the Gospel:   

"Christians are called to show mercy and compassion to those that are in need. Jesus once said, I was a stranger, and you welcomed me. In welcoming, to the least of those in our society is a demonstration of our love and compassion for Jesus. And right now, our nation has an interesting relationship with asylum and welcoming refugees."

The Hospitality Pledge will work in coalition with other UK and international charities to speak up for all asylum seekers with the aim of helping those who are persecuted for their religious beliefs and who are fleeing conflict. 

Krish Kandiah says it is also in response to the government's new plan for immigration:

"This presents the biggest change to our asylum system in a generation and is set to greatly reduce the UK's acceptance of asylum-seekers. So, we're working with the government to try and help them come up with a more humane and more compassionate system and also providing emergency accommodation to asylum seekers that would otherwise be street homeless. So, we're trying to inspire Christians to use their voice and their homes in a way that will be most helpful to a really vulnerable group of people in our society."

The Hospitality Pledge commissioned a poll which found that nearly six in ten people believe the UK should strive to be seen as compassionate in its immigration policy and that people in genuine need should be granted asylum in the UK. Two thirds of the 2,000 questioned believe Britain is a country which is genuinely welcoming to refugees in genuine need although 40 per cent believe the current system is not compassionate enough.

Speakers at the launch event include Lord Alf Dubs, who fled to the UK on the Kinder Transport in 1939 and Rachel Poulton MBE, whose family has hosted fifteen unaccompanied asylum-seeking children over the last five years. 

Dr Kandiah says there will be a lot of support for anyone who decides to accommodate a refugee or asylum-seeker and he hopes many people attend this evening's free launch event.

Dr Kandiah says he also acknowledges there are things Christians can do even if providing accommodation isn't an option:

" If it is not for you right now and you're a Christian, you can pray about these things, but also speak up to our government in a constructive way. Let's make sure that our nation changes its mind about how we're going to treat asylum-seekers and use your voice towards the government and towards our God."

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