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Faith leaders lobby new Prime Minister to take in 10,000 refugees to the UK

02 August 2019


The Cabinet Secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill, Boris Johnson, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid, the Work & Pensions Secretary and Minister for Women, Amber Rudd, and Lee Cain (back right) pictured as the Prime Minister holds his first Cabinet meeting at Downing Street, on Thursday of last week

The Cabinet Secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill, Boris Johnson, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid, the Work & Pensions Secretary and Minister f...

MORE than 100 religious leaders have demanded that the new Prime Minister commit the UK to taking in 10,000 refugees every year.

In an open letter published last week, the signatories — bishops, rabbis, moderators, imams, and clerics — said that Britain “can and must resettle more refugees”.

They continued: “As one of the world’s richest countries, seeking to build and demonstrate global co-operation and good will, this is a small ask of the UK.” They included 20 Church of England bishops, as well as representatives from the Methodists, the Quakers, the Roman Catholic Church, the United Reformed Church, and the Church of Scotland.

The previous Government announced in June that the UK would welcome 5000 refugees in 2020-21, after the end of the current commitment made by David Cameron in 2015. But the letter writers said that this should be at least doubled.

“As our new Prime Minister, we ask you to show the compassionate leadership this issue deserves,” the letter ends.

The intervention was the largest of a string of pleas, demands, and requests of Mr Johnson and his new ministers by Churches, charities, and campaigns.

The Bishop of Clogher, the Rt Revd John McDowell, has written an open letter that asks the Prime Minister to avoid a no-deal Brexit because of the consequences that it would have for communities across the island of Ireland.

Bishop McDowell, whose diocese straddles the Northern Irish border, said that the region felt “particularly fragile today”, and urged Mr Johnson to “tread carefully”, so that he does not undo the progress towards peace made since the Good Friday Agreement.

Church Action for Tax Justice has written to Downing Street, asking Mr Johnson to cancel his promised tax cuts for higher earners, and instead to focus on closing loopholes that allow tax evasion, and publishing sooner the registers of ownership in British dependencies and overseas territories.

The international development charity Tearfund wants Mr Johnson to prioritise meeting the Paris climate agreement’s targets, tackle plastic waste overseas, and to work more with local partners in delivering overseas aid.

World Vision UK has focused its attention on the new International Development Secretary, Alok Sharma, and demanded that he prevent his department’s being folded into the Foreign Office — a move that has called for by some of Mr Johnson’s supporters.

PAThe new International Development Secretary, Alok Sharma, leaves Downing Street after meeting the Prime Minister, last week

“It is crucial that [Mr Sharma] maintains the 0.7 per cent aid budget, and puts a focus on the causes of humanitarian emergencies such as conflict and the climate crisis,” World Vision’s director of policy and programmes, David Westwood, said.

Global Justice Now, a development advocacy group, said that it was deeply concerned by Mr Johnson’s choice of Liz Truss as Business Secretary.

“Truss believes in letting big business do what it wants, when it wants, and we, as ordinary citizens, simply have to adapt,” the organisation’s director, Nick Dearden, said.

“We are deeply concerned that Truss could achieve some of these objectives by writing them into trade deals, which, in turn, would create massive additional poverty, as well as fuelling climate change and inequality in Britain.”

On the steps of Downing Street, after becoming Prime Minister last week (News, 26 July), Mr Johnson pledged to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all”.

The director of the Christian cross-charity initiative Faith in Later Life, Carl Knightly, said that, while formal proposals were still lacking, he was “very encouraged” to hear the new Prime Minister make a commitment to protecting older people from having to sell their homes to fund social care.

Mr Johnson based his campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party on a pledge to deliver Brexit, unite the country, defeat Jeremy Corbyn, and energise the nation, summed up in the acronym DUDE.

But the Christian charity Restored, which works to end violence against women, has written to the Prime Minister offering its own four-point DUDE plan.

“Deliver on the Domestic Abuse Bill as a matter of urgency; unite the country so that domestic abuse is a criminal offence across all sectors of society; defeat the scourge of domestic abuse in the UK; energise your Cabinet Ministers to both move the Bill forward and ratify the Istanbul Convention,” the letter suggests.

“This is the DUDE that we hope you will be for Restored.”

Paul Robinson, the chief executive of Release International, which advocates for the persecuted Church, has also written to Downing Street. He urged Mr Johnson to follow through on his predecessor’s pledge to make protecting Christians overseas central to British foreign policy.

High on Mr Johnson’s agenda will be the ongoing crisis with Iran in the Gulf. The Fellowship of Reconciliation, a network of Christian peace organisations, has co-ordinated an open letter to Mr Johnson, asking him to build peace and dialogue to resolve the crisis, rather than allow Britain to be involved in another Middle Eastern war, “with disastrous consequences”.

Read more on the story from Paul Vallely, and in our letters pages

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