Bishop of Sheffield speaks on Church response to the migrant crisis

On Wednesday 15th June 2016 the House of Lords debated the Report from the European Union Committee The EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling (4th Report, Session 2015–16, HL Paper 46). The Bishop of Sheffield, Rt Revd Steven Croft, spoke in the debate:

14.03.27 Bishop of SheffieldThe Lord Bishop of Sheffield: My Lords, I welcome the two reports before us in all their complexity and I thank the members of the European Union Committee for their expertise, which is already evident in this debate. I particularly welcome the committee’s recommendation in paragraph 8 that the mandate of Operation Sophia is reviewed and renewed, along with the EU’s subsequent decisions. Clearly, this operation alone cannot be the complete answer to the challenges that we face. However, the European Union must not return to the position that it held before the Lampedusa tragedy of apparent indifference to those who seek to cross the Mediterranean in danger of their lives. Nor can we neglect the spread of people-smuggling on and across our borders.

I focus my remarks on two areas. The first is the complex emerging ecology of care for refugees and migrants across Europe, which is a sign of hope. Lines of help and support connect our towns and cities in Britain with the supply and delivery of aid—a counterweight to the emerging networks of people-smugglers. The responses that have emerged over recent years form a complex ecology of care; a partnership between national and local government, aid agencies, faith communities and individual charity.

The Church of England is engaged through its networks right across its Diocese in Europe and the wider Anglican communion in responding to the refugee and migration crisis and is working with the DfID to get the aid committed by the UK Government to those in most need. The Anglican communion is assisting those who remain in the camps with health, hygiene kits, shelter and education. Those who have decided to leave the region and have arrived in Europe are being supported with spiritual, psychological, health and clothing support as they cross Europe by the Anglican Church in Athens and the Anglican churches in southern Italy. These churches are themselves working in partnership with Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian communities.

Throughout Britain, churches and faith communities are working in similar partnerships to build this ecology of care for refugees here and across Europe. Sheffield is the original city of sanctuary and the ideas have spread to many other places. The Sanctuary Movement works with local charities and local authorities to welcome and support those who need a place of safety. The Muslim community in Sheffield, led by the Islamic Society of Britain, has been particularly active in collecting and transporting aid to the camps in Syria and to the refugee centres in Greece. Listening to the stories of Muslim friends who have visited these camps is heartbreaking, as are the stories that we have heard this afternoon. The crisis in its many different forms represents an impossible mission, but one which demands the best from every part of our society.

My second point concerns the scale of the present crisis. There is a sense in the reports that this is acknowledged, but not yet fully comprehended. This is not surprising, as we are clearly dealing with a situation without precedent in modern times. As we have heard, the global migration of peoples is not simply the consequence of terrible conflict in a small number of countries. As the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury said in his recent evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, there are millions and millions of displaced people across the world. The causes of migration are more extensive than war or persecution. Global warming plays its part as livelihoods disappear. A rising inequality between nations is part of the deeper narrative. Populations are rising. The dominance of a single, western and materialistic culture in the urban centres of the world makes its contribution. Global communications play their part.

The crisis we face in Europe and in the Mediterranean must be understood against this deeper and broader picture. There is a pressing need to keep in focus the United Nations vision for a more just and sustainable world, and to hold in our minds our commitment to the recently agreed sustainable development goals. There is need for more comprehensive study and further debate on the root global causes of migration and what can be done to respond to this great movement of people globally, as well as locally, strategically and tactically.

I warmly welcome these reports and plead for still deeper analysis and an ever richer ecology of care.

Baroness Janke (LD) [extract]:  ..It is also crucial that the humanitarian needs of refugees are provided for and that proper services are provided for the many who have suffered intense trauma and violence, in addition to the needs for basic food and shelter, as was so well described by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Sheffield...

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Keen of Elie) (Con) [ extract]: …The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Sheffield alluded to what we need to do when people actually arrive here. Of course, we cannot ignore the need for sanctuary of those who arrive, and I do not believe that any of us would wish to do so…


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