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Christians Aware Annual
Conference focus on Migration
Mauricio Silva, the Columban Inter Religious
Dialogue Coordinator spoke at last weekend’s
annual Christians Aware ecumenical conference in
Leeds. He writes:

I was invited to deliver a seminar at the annual
Christians Aware Conference 2024 which took place
at Hinsley Hall - the Leed’s Diocesan Pastoral
Conference and Retreat Centre - from 26-28 January.
The conference was entitled ‘Strangers and
Pilgrims: People, Displacement and Migration in
God’s World’.
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Christians Aware is an international and inter-denominational organisation, working to develop multicultural understanding
and friendship locally, nationally and internationally. These are some of my highlights of the weekend.
The conference was opened by Torsten Moritz (Executive Secretary of the Churches Commission for Migrants in Europe)
who gave us an overview of global migration trends. In the face of increasing global hostility towards migrants, Torsten
reminded the attendees that being a migrant was our Christian vocation which urges us to create a world in which we become
more human together. Inderjit Bhogal (from Cities of Sanctuary and Churches of Sanctuary) offered a biblical reflection about
the experience of being a migrant, and explained how his own migrant journey has taken him from being a stranger to
becoming the host and, eventually, a guest. He emphasised that Christians believe in a migrant God who journeys with God’s
On Saturday, Bethan Lant (from Praxis and Chair of the London Churches Refugee Network) offered an insightful overview of
the main aspects of Migration and Asylum in the UK, highlighting the many failings of the UK’s asylum system and the
systematic lack of compassion it generates. Regarding the Churches’ response to the suffering inflicted on those who seek
sanctuary in the UK, Bethan urged Christian communities to continue to offer what has become a vital practical support to
refugees, but insisted that the good deeds must be accompanied by a strong advocacy work in order to challenge a failed
asylum system.
With my colleague Catherine Bridgwood (a former Columban Faith In Action Volunteer and Befriending Coordinator of
Restore) we delivered a seminar entitled ‘Working towards a preferential option for the refugee’. The seminar explored how
the refugee experience can enrich the Church and contribute to devising strategies of help and hope. It started with an
interactive activity inviting participants to reflect on the ‘labels’ and words we commonly use to refer to people on the move
and refuges. In light of that, participants reflected on the significance of the 1951 Refugee Convention, a key document
offering clear definitions as well as an outline of the protection refugees must be given. Resonating with Bethan Lant’s
presentation, we noted a dangerous increasing reluctance of the UK government to meet its international legal obligations
regarding asylum protection.
The seminar continued with an invitation to adopt and adapt the term ‘preferential option’ with regards to refugees and the
refugee experience in both areas, theological thinking and praxis. We explored together the significance of the refugee
experience as a locus for mission today, as well as a ‘source of salvation’ for Christians in the twenty-first century. We ended
the session showcasing the work of Restore which has offered befriending services to asylum seekers for 25 years, and the
work of Fatima House, that has offered a pathway out of destitution to women seeking protection in Birmingham for the past
seven years. 
The conference also offered very well prepared and beautiful liturgies and prayers with inspiring music and other art
expressions. The final blessings of the evening liturgy on the Saturday expresses well the spirit of the weekend:
‘May God who calls us to love the stranger,
and Christ who was a refugee with nowhere to lay his head,
and the Spirit who breaks down barriers of language and culture,
Bless us now to recognise You in every human face.’

A CA Webinar:  March 21st at 7pm Rowan Williams will speak on "Preparing for Holy
Week and Easter"  The passcode will be sent by e -mail via the office.
A Leaflet giving details of the Visit to Canterbury, May 24 - 26, can be downloaded via the
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