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Rwanda plans not 'unchristian' says theologians, despite Archbishop's criticism

by Sophie Drew

Leading religious scholars have suggested the government's Rwanda plans are not "unchristian" despite staunch opposition from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Most Rt Rev Justin Welby has shown fierce opposition to Home Office plans to send migrants to Rwanda for processing. 

In his Easter sermon, he accused the government of "sub-contracting responsibilities" and said the plans were the "opposite of the nature of God." 

However, three Oxford professors - leading thinkers in moral theology, law and legal philosophy - disagree.   

A 25-page report by think tank 'The Policy Exchange,' found multiple religious leaders don't believe the policy interferes with the gospel, or goes against Christian ethics. 

Nigel Biggar CBE, Regius professor emeritus of moral theology at the University of Oxford, called out almost every senior UK cleric for their opposition to the scheme, saying: "Across the board, the moral indignation was as strong as the thought behind it was weak. Carried along by the Zeitgeist, ecclesiastical emotion sprinted ahead of reason."

The comments come ahead of a Lords' debate on Friday, in which Archbishop Justin is expected to criticise the Rwanda policy once again. 

Despite disagreeing with the Archbishop, Biggar agrees that religious leaders should have a say in politics. 

He believes, however, that Most Rt Rev Welby has a duty to consider the crimes of people smugglers before laying his moral cards on the table.

He continued: "In the wake of Archbishop Justin's Easter Sermon, one letter to the Editor of the Times newspaper counselled that 'the church should refrain from involving itself in politics.'

"This is wrong. The Christian churches have a duty to protect and promote the well-being of the world that God so loves, and that includes criticising Government policies when they do morally unjustified harm or manifestly fail to discharge moral duty. 

"That said, before church leaders set about criticising policy, they do need to think things through thoroughly from top to bottom. 

"They need to bring into play the full range of relevant moral principles-not only the duties of compassion for migrants (including asylum seekers) seeking a better life and of the rich to aid the poor, but also the duties to uphold morally justified law and to frustrate those who profit from smuggling migrants across borders, exploiting their needs and aspirations. 

"Also it is not enough to hurry from moral principle to judgement without taking into careful account the relevant circumstances-including the facts that those crossing the Channel are setting off from France, that their entry into the UK is illegal, and that attempts over several years to find an alternative effective means of stopping the illegal and life-threatening migration of tens of thousands of people in small boats across the Channel have all failed."

Premier has reached out to Lambeth Palace for comment. 

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