By only resettling refugees from Syria, Britain is unfairly denying support for the victims of ISIS across the border in Iraq, Cardinal Vincent Nichols
The cardinal said the distinction was “arbitrary” and urged the Government to do more to help refugees from the region.
“All refugees should be offered assistance,” he said in a statement ahead of the World Day for Migrants and Refugees.
“It is clearly arbitrary to make a distinction between people fleeing from the fighting in Syria and people fleeing the fighting in Iraq, particularly as the UK Government has recognised this is effectively the same conflict.
“The current approach means that many of the most vulnerable people, including Yazidi women and girls who have escaped from being held in sexual slavery by Daesh [ISIS] and cannot access appropriate support in the region, are excluded from this opportunity for resettlement abroad on the basis of their nationality.”
The cardinal praised the generosity of Catholics in helping refugees to resettle in Britain. Last year, the first Syrian family to come to Britain under the community sponsorship scheme was welcomed in Salford diocese. More families are expected in parishes across the country this year.
The cardinal’s spokesman said the Church would continue to work with the Government to help improve the lives of those seeking refuge.
The cardinal said: “It is important that the Government continues to push for peace in the region and once peace is secured, assistance is provided for the necessary rebuilding.”
Dame’s ‘Orwellian’ remarks alarm bishops
A senior government adviser has provoked alarm about rising intolerance to Christianity after saying it was “not OK” for Catholic schools to be “anti-gay marriage”.
Dame Louise Casey, the Government’s “integration tsar”, made the remarks while giving evidence to a Commons select committee.
In response, Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth said that any restrictions on Catholic schools passing on the Church’s moral teachings would be worthy of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Dame Louise was giving evidence after publishing a major report on integration which recommended migrants swear an oath of allegiance.
She said head teachers had a difficult task in deciding how far to respond to the concerns of religious groups: “Should a secular school close at 1pm on a Friday for religious reasons? I know what my view is on that, but I know that that head teacher has to have a very difficult set of conversations with the community, which often turns out not to be the parents. That is not everywhere, in every bit of the country, but it is in some communities.”
She went on to single out Catholic schools, saying: “When does a teacher running a secular school say, ‘No, it’s fine for you not to do theatre,’ or music or those sorts of thing? When is that OK? I do not really have any view on which religion it is that is promoting those sorts of views, but they are not OK, in the same way that it is not OK for Catholic schools to be homophobic and anti-gay marriage. That is not OK either – it is not how we bring children up in this country.”
She added: “It is often veiled as religious conservatism, and I have a problem with the expression ‘religious conservatism’, because often it can be anti-equalities. We have got to be careful that people can choose to live the lives that they want to live but that they cannot condemn others for living differently. That is a grey line, and the more we can talk about it the better. That is the most important thing: that people are able to talk about it, and that these head teachers are not left feeling isolated.”
Two bishops responded to her comments. Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth said it was increasingly difficult to engage in reasonable discussion and argument over anything to do with sexuality.Trying to preach sexual morality in Britain had become “like arguing with an alcoholic”, he said. “After a while, they won’t argue with you on grounds of reason, they just become furious and respond that way. ”
Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury said Britain’s Christian heritage shaped the country’s values. “These values would be undermined if an ‘equalities agenda’ in schools became the vehicle for an increasing intolerance of Christian teaching,” he said.
He added: “Strangely, it is the historic teachings of Christianity and the Christian vision of marriage which might be in need of toleration.”
The Catholic Church must develop new apologetics to address such intolerance, he said, and would also benefit internationally from a papal or magisterial document on human anthropology.
The Catholic Education Service, an agency of the bishops’ conference, said: “We expect all Catholic schools to have a zero tolerance approach to homophobic bullying.”
SPUC praises Jack Scarisbrick
The pro-life group SPUC has praised Jack Scarisbrick, the chairman and founder of the charity Life, who has stepped down after 47 years.
John Smeaton, SPUC’s chief executive, thanked Prof Scarisbrick for his “incomparable work for unborn children and their mothers” and for building a “life-saving network of support for mothers”.
He said: “His work has been a jewel in the crown of the pro-life movement.”
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