The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion has said the UK has failed to recognise it has its own share of global responsibility towards those seeking asylum.
Bishop Antony Poggo made his comments in a key-note lecture at the Centre for Anglican Communion Studies at Virginia Theological Seminary in the United States.
He said that western cultural and governmental contexts are often responsible for the root cause of global migration and this was followed by hostility to asylum seekers when they arrive in those countries :
“Any attempt to make change is likely to meet opposition – especially when it challenges vested interests. When we participate in the work of God, we can expect even more opposition. What if we played our part in advocating for action on climate change, campaigning against war. Even our own individual contribution is important in not exacerbating the root causes of forced migration.”
Speaking about the UK government's policy of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing, Bishop Anthony said that “the destination country of Rwanda is not the issue, the problem is the UK’s failure to recognise that it has its own share of the global responsibility.”
He acknowledged that the Archbishop of Canterbury had spoken against the policy in the House of Lords while “the Church in Rwanda understood the basic need for hospitality and did not find fault with the UK policy.”
He added: “This is a prime example of Anglican Christians, or the Anglican Communion, differing on their perspectives on a given issue.”
He also criticised the use of “quotas”, saying: “a migrant running away from insecurity or even danger does not care about these quotas”. He added: “these governmental quotas may themselves be fed by a narrative of fear. Yet as a Church we can see beyond this and we should help alleviate these fear messages wherever we can.”
But he also cited examples of positive approaches towards refugees and asylum seekers, including the 150,000 people in the United Kingdom who signed up to host Ukrainian refugees after the Russian invasion.
He also highlighted roles played by Anglican Churches around the world, including in the United States, where the Episcopal Church has its own Migration Department which, he said, “gives me hope for change.”
Bishop Anthony – who has himself been displaced three times – said:
“The Church globally has been known for stepping into the gap where society fails.
“The Bible encourages us to be hospitable and when this is our conviction, it influences our lives in all that we do. In Hebrews 13: 12, it says ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.’
“Let us be a people that brings hospitality to this hostile world.”