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Media challenged over portrayal of refugees

Posted on: August 18, 2016 12:19 PM
These refugees in Budapest’s Keleti International Railway Station last year are part of the largest movement of displaced people since World War II. Church leaders in Wales have challenged the negative way in which their story is portrayed in sections of the media.
Photo Credit: Diocese in Europe

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] Church leaders in Wales have joined forces to call on the country’s media to change the way they report on refugees. In a letter to media editors, the bishops of the Church in Wales have joined other Christian leaders in the country to challenge the negative portrayal of refugees. They say that “stories of hate do not chime with the generous response we see in our communities.”

In it, they say that there has been “an unprecedented polarisation of attitudes on immigration and refugees” in the past few months, “culminating in a dramatic and repugnant rise in race hate crime” since Britain’s referendum vote to leave the European Union.

“These stories have dominated our media, and stalled political action to host refugees and to ensure their rights,” the leaders said. “But as church leaders in Wales, these stories of hate do not chime with the generous response we see in our communities, nor do we accept the demonization of refugees by certain elements of the media and political establishment.”

They highlight Wales’ “rich history” of supporting displaced people; and give examples dating back to the first World War, when “Welsh communities opened their arms to host Belgian refugees fleeing the devastation” through to the modern-day sanctuary offered to refugees from places such as Eritrea, Yemen, Somalia and Iraq, “who have enriched our communities and made us a place of cultural diversity.”

They say: “Today, communities all over Wales are responding positively to the current refugee crisis – by collecting clothes for those in need close to our shores in Calais, by giving generously to emergency appeals to reach those in need in Iraq, Lebanon, the Western Balkans and Greece, and by preparing a local welcome for Syrian refugees arriving here. These stories of hope and kindness must be heard.”

They also call on the government to do more to support refugees and asylum seekers, before concluding: “to respond to the needs of refuges with boldness and we must work together as communities in Wales to find unity in our shared humanity and compassion towards others.”

The letter was sent in support of Christian Aid’s Change the Story campaign to to challenge and change the way refugees are portrayed.

It was signed by all seven Church in Wales bishops. Archbishop of Wales Dr Barry Morgan, Llandaff; John Davies, Swansea and Brecon; Gregory Cameron, St Asaph; Wyn Evans, St Davids; Andrew John, Bangor; Richard Pain, Monmouth; and the assistant bishop of Llandaff, David Wilbourne.

Alongside the leaders of the Church in Wales, the letter was also signed by the moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Wales, Prof John Gwynfor Jones; the general secretary of the Union of Welsh Independents, the Revd Dr Geraint Tudur; the general secretary of the Baptist Union of Wales, the Revd Judith Morris; the chair of the Wales Synod of the Methodist Church, the Revd Dr Stephen Wigley, and the moderator of the United Reformed Church National Synod of Wales, the Revd Simon Walkling.