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Asylum seekers and British churches

For several years our church was home to a community of Persian Christians. We worshipped together, studied scripture, and grew to be best friends. Years later, and dispersed ‘round the UK, almost all of them are still living as Christians.

EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVES AUTOR 214/Dave_Burke 09 DE FEBRERO DE 2024 09:44 h
A celebration during national refguee week in an evangelical church in Sunderland, UK. / Image: D. Burke

British Christians have been accused by two former home secretaries (Suella Braverman and Priti Patel) of aiding illegal migration by facilitating ‘conversion’ to Christianity. Braverman and Patel don’t believe these conversions are genuine. The churches, they say, are engaging in political activity.



There is some truth in this. Most Christians are nice people and very happy to support someone trying to improve their lot. Just as the young Suella and Priti’s parents, who came to the UK seeking a better future for their children.  Today, the legal route is impossible for all but the most talented or wealthy. Victims of war or persecution, or simply trying to find a better life, must arrive here illegally.



The British government have tried and failed to stop this and are therefore frustrated and angry, despite making the UK a ‘hostile environment’ for asylum seekers. At times like this a government needs a scapegoat and ours has locked on to the churches.



[destacate] Some churches opted to baptise new believers only after they had been granted permission to stay in the UK. Others happily baptised just about anyone who claimed to have converted [/destacate]British churches have received asylum seekers gladly. Some wondered whether these people were genuine and were cautious about claims of conversion. Some churches opted to baptise new believers only after they had been granted permission to stay in the UK. Others happily baptised just about anyone who claimed to have converted knowing this may become part of their legal case to remain. For some of these churches, upsetting the Conservative government came as a welcome bonus. The government are right to criticise this.


 


We live in an unstable world, and God is working through this to open doors that were once locked shut. We see this in Sunderland with our Iranian friends, profoundly disillusioned with Islam, so many are spiritually thirsty and open to listen to the gospel. The ones we meet speak of their need for a connection with God and are impressed by the lives of the Christians they have met. On many occasions this has led to their falling in love with Jesus.


 


These new believers do persevere. For several years our church was home to a community of Persian Christians. Some had come to faith in their home country, others in the UK. We worshipped together, studied scripture, and grew to be best friends. Years later, and dispersed ‘round the UK, almost all of them are still living as Christians. Our friends are the real thing.



[destacate] People may arrive in our churches for all sorts of reasons, a girl, economic migration, or fleeing persecution, the opportunity they present is too good to miss[/destacate]I remember a conversation with a local vicar who had upwards of sixty Iranians attending his church. “How do you know they’re not just there to bolster their asylum claim”, I asked. “I don’t!” he said joyfully, “But how many men do you have in your church who first heard the gospel because they fancied a girl in your congregation?” People may arrive in our churches for all sorts of reasons, a girl, economic migration, or fleeing persecution, the opportunity they present is too good to miss.


 


Some churches have been naïve, and others mischievously political. But many have taken their time, learned to make friends and disciple asylum seekers, their motives are spiritual and not political. But I must say, for many of us, upsetting Suella and Priti is a bonus!



Dave Burke, coach, speaker and retired evangelical pastor in the North East of England.


 

 


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PROTESTANTE DIGITAL FORMA PARTE DE LA: Alianza Evangélica Española
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