Refugees: Archbishop Welby speaks out on 'complex and wicked' crisis

Photo: Christian Aid

The Archbishop of Canterbury has made his biggest intervention to date in the refugee crisis. The Most Rev Justin Welby has released a statement calling on Christians to "break down barriers, to welcome the stranger and love them as ourselves (Leviticus 19:34), and to seek the peace and justice of our God, in our world, today."

Welby also had words of praise for the Government's role. "I commend the UK Government for its strong commitment to the world's poorest people through the delivery of the aid budget," he said. "It has shown global leadership by providing £900 million since 2012 to the crisis in Syria. It has also shown moral leadership in using Royal Navy ships to save the lives of hundreds who have tried to make the dangerous crossing across the Mediterranean."

The Archbishop does though suggest that more could be done: "The Government has rightly sought to provide sanctuary to unaccompanied children, women and those who have been victims of, or are at risk of, sexual violence. I welcome this, while urging a renewed commitment to taking in the most vulnerable."

The most senior Anglican cleric is also a member of the House of Lords, and spoke about the need for a political solution as well as humanitarian intervention. "This is a hugely complex and wicked crisis that underlines our human frailty and the fragility of our political systems. My heart is broken by the images and stories of men, women and children who have risked their lives to escape conflict, violence and persecution.

"There are no easy answers and my prayers are with those who find themselves fleeing persecution, as well as those who are struggling under immense pressure to develop an effective and equitable response," he added. "Now, perhaps more than ever in post-war Europe, we need to commit to joint action across Europe, acknowledging our common responsibility and our common humanity."

Turning to the role the Church can play in alleviating the crisis, the Archbishop said, "The Church has always been a place of sanctuary for those in need, and Churches in the UK and across Europe have been meeting the need they are presented with. I reaffirm our commitment to the principle of sanctuary for those who require our help and love. The people of these islands have a long and wonderful history of offering shelter and refuge, going back centuries – whether it be Huguenot Christians, Jewish refugees, Ugandan Asians, Vietnamese boat people or many, many more."

Welby also addressed the media coverage of the crisis, insisting offering sanctuary is the right thing to do. "It has always been controversial at the time it happened, always been seen as too difficult. Yet each time we have risen to the challenge and our country has been blessed by the result."