Stop Demonizing Refugees, UK Church Leaders Tell Media

Demonstrators hold placards during a refugees welcome march in London, Britain March 19, 2016. (REUTERS/Neil Hall)

Church leaders in Wales have condemned the "demonization" of refugees by the media and "political establishment," and are calling on a change of tone in reporting to chime with the generous response they have witnessed in the community.

In a letter to media editors in the country, all seven bishops of the Church in Wales and other church leaders say that there has been "an unprecedented polarization of attitudes on immigration and refugees" in the past few months, "culminating in a dramatic and repugnant rise in race hate crime" since Britain's referendum vote to leave the European Union.

"These stories have dominated our media, and stalled political action to host refugees and to ensure their rights," the letter says, according to the Anglican Communion News Service. "But as church leaders in Wales, these stories of hate do not chime with the generous response we see in our communities, nor do we accept the demonization of refugees by certain elements of the media and political establishment."

The church leaders pay tribute to the "rich history" of supporting displaced people in Wales, and refer back to the First World War, when "Welsh communities opened their arms to host Belgian refugees fleeing the devastation." They note that refugees today who come from places including Eritrea, Yemen, Somalia and Iraq and "have enriched our communities and made us a place of cultural diversity."

The letter, which was sent in support of Christian Aid's Change the Story campaign to change the way refugees are portrayed, goes on: "Today, communities all over Wales are responding positively to the current refugee crisis – by collecting clothes for those in need close to our shores in Calais, by giving generously to emergency appeals to reach those in need in Iraq, Lebanon, the Western Balkans and Greece, and by preparing a local welcome for Syrian refugees arriving here. These stories of hope and kindness must be heard."

The letter was signed by all seven Anglican Church in Wales bishops: Archbishop of Wales Dr. Barry Morgan, Llandaff; John Davies, Swansea and Brecon; Gregory Cameron, St. Asaph; Wyn Evans, St. Davids; Andrew John, Bangor; Richard Pain, Monmouth; and the assistant bishop of Llandaff, David Wilbourne.

It was also signed by the moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Wales, Prof. John Gwynfor Jones; the general secretary of the Union of Welsh Independents, the Rev. Dr. Geraint Tudur; the general secretary of the Baptist Union of Wales, the Rev. Judith Morris; the chair of the Wales Synod of the Methodist Church, the Rev. Dr. Stephen Wigley, and the moderator of the United Reformed Church National Synod of Wales, the Rev. Simon Walkling.

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