Britain's Quakers are pledging to resist the policies of the government's 'hostile environment' for immigrants. The 'Sanctuary Everywhere Manifesto', agreed by the Quakers' national decision making body this weekend, declares:
"Through Quakers' longstanding work welcoming newcomers to our shores, we have seen up close that the government's creation of a 'hostile environment' is increasingly embedding policies of discrimination into the practices of the British state. Quakers in Britain are committed to working with others to change this, creating a culture of compassion and welcoming hospitality that answers that of God in every person."
The position takes a stand against the scandal of indefinite immigration detention, pledges support for 'new, peaceful, safer routes of migration', and opposes the possibility of unjust deportations and forced removals.
Tim Gee, Sanctuary Everywhere Programme Developer for Quaker Peace and Social Witness said: "We are inspired by Jesus' very last public speech, in which he invites every one of us to 'Welcome the Stranger'. As a church minister's daughter, Theresa May is no doubt familiar with this teaching. We invite her to put it into action."
Quakers have been instrumental in establishing the Sanctuary Movement in the USA and in Britain. This builds on a history that includes providing refuge in Pennsylvania for the Amish and other religious minorities in the 18th Century, assisting enslaved people escape the US South in the 19th century, and in the 1930s helping Jews and others oppressed by the Nazis to flee Germany to Britain through the Kindertransport.
Many Quaker Meetings in Britain are engaged in welcoming newcomers. Actions include hosting people at home, providing legal support, volunteering in refugee camps, visiting detention centres, providing English lessons, holding anti-racism events at Quaker meeting houses and conversations with politicians advocating for change.
"As Quakers, we have long worked for peace and equality, because of our belief that there is that of God in everyone, everywhere, whoever they are.
"Through Quakers' longstanding work welcoming newcomers to our shores, we have seen up close that the government's creation of a 'hostile environment' is increasingly embedding policies of discrimination into the practices of the British state. Quakers in Britain are committed to working with others to change this, creating a culture of compassion and welcoming hospitality that answers that of God in every person.
"Our Meeting for Sufferings was born of a response to the government's systematic discrimination against Quakers in the past. Today we turn that experience into solidarity, and stand against all oppression and suffering. We declare our determination to work for sanctuary everywhere, including here in Britain, by agreeing this Manifesto for change.
"Human rights standards for all should be the foundation on which any national policy or international agreement on migration is founded, and these include the right to work, to learn, to housing, to medical care and to security in the event of adverse circumstances beyond personal control.
"We will campaign for change to the asylum process so that it is built on a culture of compassion and practical response, rather than starting from an assumption of disbelief.
"Within the UK system of immigration detention is institutional violence and discrimination. We oppose indefinite detention, which we believe neither right nor necessary, and will work towards the closure of all detention centres. Other more humane policies are more effective and should be introduced.
"Our belief in every human being's equality leads us to oppose unjust deportations and removals, whether to the EU or to the wider world.
"The humanitarian risks of trafficking and unsafe passage lead us to work for new, peaceful, safer routes of migration including the introduction of humanitarian visas and improved rules for family reunion.
"To ourselves and wider society, we reaffirm our determination to acknowledge and dismantle discrimination in all of its forms, wherever it is to be found."
Read more about the Sanctuary Everywhere Programme: www.quaker.org.uk/our-work/social-justice/migration
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