Thursday, 15 April 2010

The Sanctuary Pledge Campaign is Swinging for Justice!

The Sanctuary Pledge Campaign is in full swing, as the General Election looms. The major goal is to prevent the urgent needs of international refugees who have fled from terror, torture and/or rape from getting lost within the general debate on immigration. At the last election asylum seekers became a ‘political football’ as the parties tried to prove that they would take the hard ground on immigration in general.

The Sanctuary Pledge is fundamentally about treating traumatised people fairly and with respect. The Pledge is to be signed by Prospective Parliamentary Candidates. Once the election is over, every new MP who has signed, can be reminded of the Pledge, and further encouraged to strive for justice for this vulnerable group of people.

Our three denominations are committed to the goals of Sanctuary Pledge, and many of you reading this blog will already have been to the training sessions and will be all set to visit the Prospective Party Candidates in your constituency in order to invite them to sign the Pledge. If you haven’t, there is still time to contact the organisers and find out what is happening in your area!

Just before Easter, our church leaders together with Muslim and Jewish leaders, and in partnership with the Citizens Organising Foundation, gathered at Westminster to demonstrate their concern for the plight of asylum seekers.

They ask only that all people seeking sanctuary in the UK should be treated with human dignity and transparent justice, and specifically that asylum seeking children should no longer be held in detention centres.

This picture shows Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, addressing supporters and onlookers, before signing his support.

After the formal signing ceremony, the leaders commissioned couriers to begin the travels of some large moleskin notebooks, which will journey through 200 selected constituencies, to enable many different churches to offer support and comment. There is also a book which will journey around mosques and another which will be passed between synagogues.

Mrs Chris Elliot, Secretary for External Relations for The Methodist church, is seen here with Ms Patricia Chinyoka, who was about to take the book to its first destination in Wales, Meirionydd Nant Conwy...

...and Ms Val Morrison, Co-Moderator Elect of the United Reformed Church, prayed for Revd Canon Bob Fyffe, General Secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, who was on standby to deliver the book to Northern Ireland.

These books are to be living history! They will witness to the concerns of people around the UK who care deeply for those folk who, having lived through unimaginable torments, ask our nation for help. (And also to concerns that those applicants who fail to meet the stringent asylum criteria, should still be treated with respect and deported without undue humiliation.) Copies of the books will, in due course, find their way to leaders of political parties or immigration spokespeople.

We are in a unique moment of political history. Please pray for this part of the jigsaw, sharing in God’s care for the poorest and most vulnerable people in this land. Pray especially that this action will make an impression on the hearts of those who will become Members of the new Parliament, that they will want to ensure that no asylum-seeking child is held in detention.

And if you want to get involved in persuading Prospective Parliamentary Candidates to sign the pledge, then follow this link: