Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark joined more than 2,000 people taking part in the 'Refugees Welcome' Day of Action
Catholic and Anglican bishops from Britain and France have joined together to ask their countries to be more generous in response to the migrant crisis at Calais.
Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark, Trevor Wilmott, Anglican Bishop of Dover, and Catholic Bishop Jean-Paul Jaeger of Arras visited the “Jungle” refugee camp at Calais last Saturday.
They joined more than 2,000 supporters from countries including England, Ireland, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, in a “Refugees Welcome” Day of Action. Together they walked from the camp to the port gates where there was a rally with prayers, speeches and music.
Archbishop Smith told Independent Catholic News: “It’s very sad. People are living here in very bad conditions. But I was delighted to see how resilient people are, showing real enterprise, building the chapel and setting up little shops.”
He continued: “I’ve heard some terrible accounts from people, both Christian and Muslim, whose loved ones have been killed because of their faith. But I’ve also been encouraged to see people still remaining hopeful, helping each other and receiving support from volunteers here.”
He said he hoped that local and national governments on both sides of the Channel would put more effort into providing accommodation for the refugees, and speed up the legal processes to enable them to participate fully in society.
In a joint statement in English and French the bishops said: “We leaders of churches alongside the English Channel have joined in solidarity with this Day of Action in Calais and repeat our calls for people to respond to the growing crisis by showing generosity to those who are exiled from their homeland. These vulnerable men, women and children share in our common humanity and everyone can help them to live in dignity and contribute to civil society.
“People of all faiths and none can assist by providing financial and material support, time and skills, shelter and accommodation. Above all, we can pray and gather information to support pleas for better treatment in our nations and across the European Union. We wish to counter the myths that lead to prejudice and fear and urge politicians to envisage new policies that go beyond merely closing frontiers and employing increased numbers of security staff.
“We resolve to work together to encourage residents to create a climate of welcome for strangers and we trust that we will be joined in this by all who gather in places of worship along the frontiers of European nations.”