Bishop Richard's letter to The Hereford Times on asylum seekers in Hereford

Published on: 7th March 2023

An open letter to The Hereford Times from The Rt Revd Richard Jackson in support of asylum seekers


A few years ago, I visited some refugees in Pakistan.  Their only crime was changing their religion. For that, they were being pursued by angry relatives.  I baptised one child who still bore the scars of being burned out of their home.  Two weeks later, they were tracked down and had to flee again. As a church, we are supporting a large number of Ukrainian refugees from the current war. Should they have stayed at home, risking death and childhood trauma? What would you have done if you were in their position?


Should the Afghans who worked with the British forces have stayed in Afghanistan and taken their chances? How would you feel if you found yourself in their shoes?


Frankly, I find the rhetoric appearing in online forums and in print publications around asylum seekers deeply disturbing.  The most recent conversations surrounding a plans to host asylum seekers in the Three Counties Hotel in Hereford seems uncharitable, to say the least.


As a Christian, I’m not so naïve as to recognise this is a complex issue and there is no single or easy solution.  I’m aware that we can’t offer asylum to everyone, but we must not disregard our ethical responsibilities or ignore at will international law — which protects the right to claim asylum.


We have a rich history in this country of welcoming refugees.  The Jewish people who escaped death to come here in WW2; the polish workers who settled here after the second world war; the many Romanians, Lithuanians, Hungarians and other eastern European nationals who come to work on our farms and support our agricultural economy.  We have much to thank them for in the economic contribution made as they chose to settle here in our county.  Our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have for centuries. Asylum seekers are desperate people fleeing unspeakable horrors. They have no other choice but to leave. Many are Iranians, Eritreans and Sudanese citizens of African nations, who have an asylum grant rate of at least 88 per cent. There are others too from more recent conflicts in Syria, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan who have borne the scars of war working and serving alongside our troops. These are people Jesus had in mind when he said we offer hospitality to a stranger. They are the vulnerable that the Old Testament calls us to value.  Jesus was a refugee himself.


I hope we might be able to walk a mile in their shoes before being so quick to condemn and exclude.


The Rt Revd Richard Jackson,

Bishop of Hereford



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