Another prominent figure from the Church of England has condemned plans to send people seeking asylum in the UK 4000 miles away to Rwanda.
Following the Archbishop of Canterbury’s condemnation of the Government’s Rwanda asylum scheme, the Bishop of Chelmsford has sent a letter to Home Secretary, Priti Patel, stating that she stands, ‘full square behind his comments.’
The Right Reverend Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani came to the UK from Iran as a teenager during the Islamic Revolution in 1980. During her maiden speech to the House of Lords on 2nd December 2021, she says that she made this journey following, ‘difficult and traumatic circumstances.’ Her father, then the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Iran, was imprisoned, her mother injured in an attack, and in May 1980 her 24-year-old brother was murdered. She says that her lived experience as an asylum seeker makes her ‘extremely anxious’ about the scheme and its implications.
Home Secretary’s constituency in Bishop’s diocese
The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, is the MP for Witham, which is in Dr Francis-Dehqani’s Diocese of Chelmsford. In her letter, the Bishop appeals to Patel to listen to the concerns being raised by ‘a cross section of public opinion.’ She responds to an article Patel wrote which was published in the Times on the 18th of April, where the Home Secretary says that institutions criticising the Government’s new asylum policy, ‘fail to offer their own solutions.’
Dr Francis-Dehqani argues that it is not the purpose of the Church to provide, ‘worked out political solutions.’ Instead, she says, it is their responsibility to, ‘point out where there are serious ethical and moral implications arising from Government proposals.’
Criticism of Rees-Mogg
She also called comments made by Jacob Rees-Mogg on BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend, ‘disingenuous’ – Rees-Mogg told the programme that he thought the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, had misunderstood the Government’s policy. Dr Francis-Dehqani said that ‘thoughtful criticism should not be dismissed in this off-hand manner,’ before concluding the letter with a quote from the Bible: ‘In the words of Jesus himself, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”’
Elsewhere over the Easter weekend, Rees-Mogg was bombarded by replies when he tweeted: ‘Christ is risen, Alleluia. He is risen indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia,’ with many referring to the Rwanda asylum scheme. One of the top replies was by journalist Femi Oluwole (@Femi_Sorry), which said, ‘You would have put Jesus’ refugee parents on a plane to Rwanda.’