Dear Friends,

In spite of the chaos that surrounded their evacuation, it is good that it was possible to airlift some 20,000 Afghan refugees out of Kabul with the intention of relocating them to this country. One can only hope that the initial out pouring of generous concern demonstrated in so many ways – including by folk local to us – will continue after the proverbial dust has settled. Meanwhile almost unnoticed, every day 100s of ‘migrants’, ‘refugees’, ‘asylum seekers’, have been making the perilous journey across the English Channel from France, quite literally landing up on the Kent coast. Generally speaking, they have not received the same rapturous welcome as that given to those coming from Afghanistan. They tend to be regarded with curiosity, suspicion, disdain, hostility, even hatred. Much is made of the fact that they may well have travelled through numerous other countries in which they might have sought refuge, so why come to this country? No doubt they have their reasons, and the legitimacy or otherwise of such reasons will become apparent during the processing of their claim to stay in the country. It isn’t for us to second guess the outcome. Until then, they are deserving of a welcome; a warm-hearted welcome. They deserve to have provided for them a standard of living that at the very least allows them to retain their sense of dignity and self-worth. We owe them what is necessary to ensure that for as long as it takes, they are safe, secure, fed, watered, clothed, befriended; made to feel at home for as long as this is home for them now…As a church we have been privileged over the last 10 years to have had a number of ‘migrants’, ‘refugees’, ‘asylum seekers’ become part of our Congregation. Predominantly from Iran. Each of them has their own tale to tell. It isn’t for us to ‘stand in judgement’ over them. That is the prerogative of the law as implemented and discharged by the Civil Authorities. I get to talk at length with each of them. I have had shared with me stories that are harrowing, heart-rending, on occasion seemingly far-fetched, tragic, desperate, painful to listen to…It is easy to be cynical, tempting to take what one hears with an over large ‘pinch of salt’…But then, on reflection I believe that their presence within our church family has enriched our fellowship. Not only that, numbers of them have gone on to gain academic qualifications, take up places in College and University, find work, marry, have children, and take their place as citizens of the United Kingdom. Some have and are taking an active role within the life of the church contributing to worship, and its governance…But more than that, I believe that the Christian faith demands of us that we do not allow ourselves to be identified with the knee jerk xenophobia that raises its ugly head courtesy of every tabloid newspaper headline. Whoever they are, they are our ‘sisters & brothers’ in Christ. Our door must always be open – ‘whomsoever will come’, must be allowed to come – to anyone and everyone who would venture inside.

Our door must always be open