The Church of England has called on parishioners to offer hospitality to refugees and asylum seekers and to fight for their cause. A new report out this week: A Place of Refuge advances a Christian case for asylum policies based on compassion and solidarity. The report, from the Mission and Public Affairs Council , explains the legal basis of the asylum system and examines the economic and other contributions made to the UK by asylum seekers and refugees. In the process it casts doubt on many popular assumptions and stereotypes. "Whatever the problems involved in framing a just system to deal with their claims, asylum seekers and refugees are fellow human beings with much to offer to our society," said the Rt Rev Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark and Vice-Chair, Public Affairs, of the Council, in his foreword to the report. "The report," said Bishop Tom, "does not attempt to tackle the larger question of immigration. Nor does it advocate a programme for wholesale reform of the asylum system. Nevertheless, by focusing on the people who are driven to seek asylum, it provides an informed and humane contribution to the larger debate." Two factors are often in short supply in debates on asylum, says the Bishop of Southwark. "First, an acknowledgement of our moral and legal obligations towards people who have fled from their own country as a result of persecution and other serious threats, and second, a clear grasp of the facts behind the statistics which are bandied about." A Place of Refuge outlines its theological basis before exploring the economic, spiritual, cultural and personal contributions made by refugees. It shows the large and variable range of economic contributions made and argues that to aggregate them is to present a misleading snapshot of current figures. It then compares the economic contribution made to the economic cost of refugees to the UK. After focusing on some of the gender-related aspects of sylum seeking, the report offers suggestions for action for churches and Christian groups. A Place of Refuge is available on the Church of England website at www.cofe.anglican.org
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