Sussex bishop says Government’s Rwanda migrant plan would be ‘shameful stain’ on UK’s character

The Bishop of Chichester has said the Government’s plans to send some asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda would be a ‘shameful stain on our character’.

The Right Rev Dr Martin Warner made the comment as he delivered his Easter Day message today (Sunday, April 17).

It comes as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, criticised the scheme in his Easter sermon, saying it was ‘the opposite of the nature of God’.

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Under the scheme people deemed to have entered the UK unlawfully will be transported to Rwanda, where they will be given the chance to apply for the right to settle in the UK.

The Right Rev Dr Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester SUS-210404-140058001

Since the scheme was announced this week, it has faced widespread opposition, with more than 160 charities and campaign groups urging ministers to scrap the policy.

But the Government said change is needed in order to protect lives from people smugglers.

Dr Warner said: “It is the law of love that sets out the non-negotiable things about humanity, as made in the image of God, and destined for glory in life beyond death.

“So when confronted by war, acute economic inequality, or the deportation of refugees to Rwanda, which would be a shameful stain on our nation’s character, it is the law of love that challenges our conscience and calls us to the reordering of our priorities in the making and keeping of our nation’s laws.

“I am not going to comment on our Prime Minister’s breach of law and its penalty. But it is worth noting that laws, made by Parliament, do not belong to any Prime Minister: they are the laws of the realm.

“These laws are not simply a set of rules, like you have for Rotary or the WI. The law binds us to each other in public bonds of honour and respect. They are to be applied by the judiciary to all people equally. This is easier said than done, but it is how we attempt to sustain truth and justice, irrespective of status, wealth and power.”

Talking about Chichester Cathedral’s Art of Worship project, Dr Warner said: “One of the most imaginative and encouraging developments in the life of the cathedral this year has been the Art of Worship project.

“Drawing on the exceptional talents of Martin Earle and Jim Blackstone, it has invited us to explore the elements of sacred art.

“In their temporary workshop in the North Transept we have seen how artists in the 21st century can create with freshness and vitality the images of faith that resonate with a theological imagination that spans two millennia.

“That skill and confidence in the work of sacred art has also been a powerful reminder of how Christianity came to be so deeply embedded in Ukraine and subsequently spread from there to Russia.

“The 10th century historian, Nestor, recounts how in 987 Emperor Vladimir sent envoys from Kyiv to explore the faith of his neighbouring countries.

“They dismissed Islamic faith because it forbade drinking alcohol and eating pork and they found no beauty in the churches of Germany. But in Constantinople the worship of God in the great church of Hagia Sophia overwhelmed them. “We no longer knew whether we were in heaven or on earth”.”