Britain has ‘moral responsibility’ to accept Syrian refugees, say Church leaders

Church leaders are urging David Cameron to rethink governmentpolicy on Britain accepting Syrian refugees.

Forty-eight Baptist, Methodist, Roman Catholic and UnitedReformed Church leaders from across Great Britain have written anopen letter to the Prime Minister acknowledging the significantrole that Britain has played in providing funds for refugees incountries around Syria. However, the letter also speaks of the'moral responsibility' to resettle a significant number of refugeesin Britain. The letter criticises the Government's initialcommitment as falling a long way short of the contribution Britainshould make given its size and resources. The leaders suggest thata proportionate figure well in excess of 1,000 would be far moreappropriate and point out that following a major conflict mostrefugees are able and desire to return to their homes.

"We are proud of Britain's long heritage of welcoming refugees,"said the Revd John Howard, Chair of the Wolverhampton andShrewsbury Methodist District, who coordinated the response. "Wehave an ethical duty to honour this tradition and play our part incaring for those displaced by this terrible conflict."

The full text of the letter follows:

Dear Sir,

The undersigned church leaders from the Baptist Union,Methodist, Roman Catholic and United Reformed Churches write to youout of concern for the stance being taken by the Government on thereception of refugees from the Syrian crisis to the UnitedKingdom.  We understand that the Church of England bishopshave already written to you on this matter.

We would like to begin by acknowledging the significant rolethat Britain has played in providing funds to meet the needs of therefugees presently in countries around Syria as a result of theconflict in that country. We are glad to be a part of a countrywhich is willing to spend a significant resource in caring forrefugees in this most terrible of crises.

However, it is our view that the extension of hospitality goesbeyond financial and that there is a moral responsibility upon usas part of the international community to resettle a small butsignificant number of refugees fleeing Syria. We believe that it isan ethical duty for us as a responsible country to accept our partin the caring for these people.

As you are aware, following a major conflict it is usually thecase that most refugees are able to return to their homes and mostdesire to do so. It is a small proportion who, as a result ofexperiences they have suffered or threats to their safety, areunable to return. It is out of concern for those individuals thatwe write to you, asking for a change in your government's policieson this matter.

We note that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugeeshas identified a figure of 30,000 refugees who are particularlyvulnerable and require permanent residency in European countries.Different countries across Europe have varied in the contributionthat they have made; examples include Norway accepting 1,000 andGermany 10,000.  Figures such as these do make a significantcontribution to the welcoming of these individuals.

We note also that the debate in this country is taking place andwe would want to encourage your Government to think in terms ofmaking a contribution appropriate to the size of our country,proportionate with these countries referred to above. The figure ofup to 500 which appears to have been agreed by government with theUnited Nations recently seems to be a long way short of that. To beproportionate with these countries and some way above the Norwayfigure referred to above would seem to represent a responsibleresponse to the present crisis, and one which would resonate withour historic tradition of welcoming refugees. 

We remain yours faithfully,


Revd. Geoffrey Colmer, Regional Minister Team Leader, CentralBaptist Association

Revd. Paul Hills, Regional Minister, Eastern BaptistAssociation

Revd. Canon Keith Judson, Regional Minister Team Leader,Heart of England Baptist Association

Revd. Adrian Argile, Regional Minister, Heart of EnglandBaptist Association

Revd. Barrie Smith, Regional Minister, Heart of EnglandBaptist Association

Revd. John Claydon, Regional Minister (Pastoral), NorthernBaptist Association

Revd.Nigel Coles, Senior Regional Minister, West of EnglandBaptist Association

Revd. Ruth Gee, President of the Methodist Conference &Chair of the Darlington District

Revd. Peter Barber, Chair of the Chester & StokeDistrict

Revd. Jim Booth, Chair of the Liverpool District

Revd. Anne Brown, Chair of the Bedfordshire, Essex andHertfordshire District

Revd. Stephen Burgess, Chair of the York and Hull District

Revd. Keith Davies, Chair of the Manchester and StockportDistrict

Revd. Paul Davis, Chair of the Lancashire District

Revd. Dr. David Easton, Chair of the Synod of the MethodistChurch in Scotland

Revd. Richard Hall, Chair of the Isle of Man District

Revd. Peter Hancock, Chair of the Northampton District

Revd. John Hellyer, Chair of the South East District

Revd. John Howard, Chair of the Wolverhampton & ShrewsburyDistrict

Revd. Ian Howarth, Chair of the Birmingham District

Revd. Jennifer Hurd, Chair of Synod Cymru

Revd. Jennifer Impey, Chair of the London District

Revd. Dr. Stuart Jordan,Chair of the London District

Revd. Paul Martin, Chair of the Bolton & RochdaleDistrict

Revd. Loraine Mellor, Chair of the Nottingham & DerbyDistrict

Revd. Peter Pillinger, Chair of the Plymouth & ExeterDistrict

Revd. Dr. Elizabeth Smith, Chair of the Leeds District

Revd. Richard Teal, Chair of the Cumbria District

Revd. Bruce Thompson, Chair of the Lincolnshire District

Revd. Graham Thompson, Chair of the East Anglia District

Revd. Dr. Roger Walton, Chair of the West Yorkshire District

Revd. Dr. Andrew Wood, Chair of the Southampton District

Revd. Michaela Youngson, Chair of the London District

Bishop Patrick Lynch, Chair of the Office forMigration Policy for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Englandand Wales 

Mr John Ellis, Moderator of the General Assembly of the URC2013-16

Revd. Michael Jagessar, Moderator of the General Assembly of theURC  2012 - 2014

Revd. Richard Church, Moderator of the North Western Synod ofthe URC

Revd Clare Downing, Moderator of the Wessex Synod of the URC

Revd Nicola Furley-Smith, Moderator of the Southern Synod of theURC

Revd John Humphreys, Moderator of the Scotland Synod of theURC

Revd Roy Lowes, Moderator of the West Midlands Synod of theURC

Revd Peter Meek, Moderator of the East Midlands Synod of theURC

Revd. Lis Mullen, Moderator of the Northern Synod of the URC

Revd Dr Andrew Prasad, Moderator of the Thames North Synod ofthe URC

Revd. Howard Sharp, Moderator of the Mersey Synod  of theURC

Revd Simon Walkling, Moderator of the Wales Synod of the URC

Revd. Kevin Watson, Moderator of the Yorkshire Synod of theURC

Revd Ruth Whitehead, Moderator of the South Western Synod of theURC

Revd Paul Whittle, Moderator of the Eastern Synod of the URC