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Canon calls for Faith in Asylum

Thursday, 10th February 2005

Canon calls for Faith in Asylum

The British asylum system is expensive, inefficient and inhumane and too often we cannot be confident it comes to the right decision.

This is the contention of Professor Nicholas Sagovsky, Canon Theologian at Westminster Abbey, who, in the Gore Lecture, to be given at the Abbey on Tuesday 15 February at 8pm, will call for 'Faith in Asylum'. In what promises to be a vigorous and thought-provoking address, Canon Sagovsky aims to continue the tradition established by Charles Gore (1853-1932) who was noted for combining a robust belief in traditional Christian doctrine with a radical agenda for social reform.

Canon Sagovsky, who has extensive experience of work with asylum seekers, including work in the Chaplaincy of an Immigration Detention Centre, will argue that the Christian tradition dictates a robust belief in asylum for all who need it:

I would like to see the Christian Churches, together with other faith communities, play their part in a major investigation of the workings of the asylum system, following the precedent set by the Church of England with Faith in the City in 1985.

In the Gore Lecture Canon Sagovsky will explore what was intended by the1951 Refugee Convention, on which the right to asylum is based today. He will argue that Britain's asylum policy has developed from a fundamental 'faith in asylum' but this has almost disappeared in the 'culture of distrust' that now surrounds asylum seekers.

Asylum has become a political battleground - but caught up in the system are human beings, whose human rights are abused by the very system that is supposed to defend them. Amongst pressure points that urgently need review are:

  • The initial asylum interview
  • The country information on which decisions are based
  • The use of detention
  • Inadequate legal support, especially for appeals
  • Deportation procedures

Notes for editors

This is the 60th annual Gore lecture to take place at the Abbey and previous speakers and topics have included: Dr Rowan Williams in 1989 "Incarnation and Social Vision - a new look at an old theme"; Lord Runcie in 1994 "Thoughtful Holiness"; and Rev.Prof.Sir John Polkinghorne in 2001 "Science and Theology in a Trinitarian Perspective".

The lecture takes place in the Nave at 8 pm on Tuesday 15 February

Tickets are not required, access is via the Great West Door.

The Lecture will appear on the Abbey's website.

Nicholas Sagovsky is Canon Theologian at Westminster Abbey and Visiting Professor in Theology and Public Life at Liverpool Hope University College. He was previously Dean of Clare College, Cambridge and then William Leech Professor in Applied Christian Theology at Newcastle University. He has been a member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) for ten years and has written widely on ecumenism and on issues in public life. He is currently working on a study of "Christian tradition and the Practice of Justice".

The biggest challenge we face is actually time – getting all our work done alongside the daily routine of the Abbey as a working church, visitor attraction and home to 1,000 years of history.

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