London churches' campaign for tolerance and community cohesion

Sarah Teather (front row, far right) with the London Church Leaders
Sarah Teather (front row, far right) with the London Church Leaders

Sarah Teather of the Jesuit Refugee Service has spoken about the crisis that asylum seekers face in the capital. She was addressing the launch by London’s Church Leaders of a new campaign in response to the ongoing refugee crisis, and following continued reports of intolerance and heightened tension in the wake of the EU Referendum.

#LondonUnited encourages churches representing the capital’s different Christian dominations to showcase their community work, particularly in response to the needs of refugees, asylum seekers and destitute migrants. Throughout the run-up to Christmas, churches will be sharing their stories of community cohesion in London, using the hashtag #LondonUnited on social media.

At the London Church Leaders meeting, senior Christian leaders expressed their grave concerns about not only the scale of the refugee crisis, but also the rise in racial tensions that have accompanied the recent vote to leave the European Union. The Leaders affirmed their support for the Declaration agreed by the Faith and Community Assembly, opened by Mayor Sadiq Khan in October, celebrating diversity in the capital.

The rights of asylum seekers

In addition to former MP, Sarah Teather (the Director of JRS UK), the meeting was addressed by John Perumbalath (Archdeacon of Barking and Chair of the London Churches Refugee Network) and Angela Afzal (Refugee Response Coordinator at Capital Mass). London Church Leaders heard of the partnership Capital Mass has established with Housing Justice to provide temporary accommodation for London’s destitute migrants and refugees, while their cases are being addressed, and also about the work of the Jesuit Refugee Service in advocating the rights of those asylum seekers who are detained under the immigration rules or who are left destitute and without opportunities in the UK.  

The London Church Leaders meeting was also addressed by guest speaker Matthew Ryder, the Deputy Mayor for Social Integration, Mobility and Community Engagement, who was recently appointed by the Mayor to help improve integration amongst the capital’s many different communities; he has added City Hall’s support for #LondonUnited. 

“We have a great tradition of welcome in London,” said His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, at the launch of the initiative. “The rich diversity of our parishes, schools and neighbourhoods offers a testament to this tradition. As Christians, we are called to extend the hand of friendship and support to the those who are most in need. It is in recognising and promoting the inherent dignity of every person that we build a strong society and remain true to our British values.”