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Church initiative helps Iranian family waiting for result of asylum claim

23 June 2023

Story is one of many told as part of UN World Refugee Day this week

Alamy

A “Compassion Not Cruelty” banner is erected by Amnesty UK activists in Parliament Square on World Refugee Day, on Tuesday

A “Compassion Not Cruelty” banner is erected by Amnesty UK activists in Parliament Square on World Refugee Day, on Tuesday

ALI is a student from Iran, stranded in the UK when the Iranian authorities blocked his bank account after discovering Christian literature during a raid on the family home.

He had arrived with his wife to study in the UK for a year, and intended to go home at the end of his course. But without money to pay his fees or living expenses, he has applied for asylum.

Ali and his wife are now being supported by Welcome Churches — an initiative that links refugees with local churches — while they await the outcome of their asylum claim. The couple are living in Leicester, and are being supported by a local congregation, at Melton Vineyard Church.

“Even though being an asylum-seeker carries legal status all over the world,” Ali said, “you immediately have no social status, and must navigate this extreme loss of identity in an unknown territory. Sometimes, I cannot talk, think, or even concentrate, and my wife and I often feel lonely and homesick for our parents and siblings.”

His story was one of many told as part of this week’s UN World Refugee Day, on Tuesday.

Christian leaders, including bishops, also spoke in support of refugees on the day. The Archbishop of Canterbury posted online: “I am proud of how many churches and communities have been involved in the Community Sponsorship scheme, fulfilling the call from Jesus to welcome the stranger.

“I pray we continue to open our hearts to those fleeing persecution, conflict and crisis, and prioritise sustainable ways for a world where refugees are always included.”

The Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd Andrew John, called for a compassionate response to refugees. He said that the victims of the shipwreck off the coast of Greece on Wednesday of last week, in which hundreds are feared killed — many of them believed to be children — were the “latest in a crisis which is just escalating year after year as people flee their homes as a result of war, persecution, or climate change, in the hope of finding a better future in Europe.

“This is a global crisis which affects us all, and which calls for global action. There are no easy answers, but we believe all responses must first and foremost be grounded in compassion and mercy.”

Scottish faith leaders voiced their united opposition to the Illegal Migration Bill, which is going through Westminster (News, 16 June).

Faith leaders, including the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Revd Sally Foster-Fulton; the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Revd Mark Strange; the Moderator of the United Reformed Church’s General Assembly, the Revd Fiona Bennett; and the Chief Imam of the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society, Dr Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi, said: “As people of faith, we strive to welcome the stranger, to offer hospitality, to love, protect, listen, learn, and show compassion.

“Across the UK, now and throughout history, individuals and communities of faith have welcomed refugees into their homes and lives. But the Illegal Migration Bill will deny people desperately seeking safety in the UK the right to community, peace, compassion, and security.

“It will ban people from getting the protection they need, punish them for seeking sanctuary, and separate families.

“Instead of hospitality, it treats people with hostility, discrimination, and distrust. We believe in a different approach. We believe in a fair and just asylum system that welcomes those who need protection and respects their dignity. We call on the [UK Government] to listen to communities who say this Bill does not reflect what we want our country to be.”

Last Sunday, remembering victims of the Greek shipwreck, Pope Francis said: “I implore that everything possible always be done to prevent similar tragedies.”

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