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Birmingham Cathedral service celebrates refugees for first ‘Sanctuary Sunday’

Sun 24 Jun 2018
By Cara Bentley

Sanctuary Sunday marks the end of refugee week and a time to remember those seeking asylum.  

The service at 1:30 on Sunday will be the first official national service to be held anywhere in recognition of those seeking a safe place of welcome.

Inspired by Christian Aid and Churches Together Great Britain & Ireland, it is hoped that it will become an annual event.

The added significance for the Church is that the city of Birmingham has historically been sanctuary to those seeking refuge, becoming home to various communities from Syria, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Iraq and other places since the 18th Century.  

Rev Dr Sharon Prentis, Dean of Black & Minority Ethnic Affairs for the Church of England in Birmingham, told Premier: “Sanctuary Sunday is an opportunity for the church to really be prayerful of those seeking sanctuary for any number of reasons – so migrants who are here because of violence and war and conflict and also those who, for whatever reason, are facing persecution and have sought sanctuary in this country.”

She described the Sunday service: “At the end of refugee week they will hold a service of thanks to celebrate the city’s rich diversity and also to keep remembering that millions of people are in transit around the globe.”

Rev Dr Inderjit Bhogal will be preaching and a variety of community representatives will contribute “as a reflection of Birmingham’s vibrant diversity" said the Church of Birmingham. 

"Birmingham churches have sought to welcome and support those seeking refuge in keeping with the biblical mandate to love the stranger and to act justly, love mercy while walking humbly."

Dr Prentis agreed: “In general the churches in Birmingham from across all denominations have tried to work together to address those issues that those seeking refuge come with."

She explained though it wasn’t just about celebrating the city’s track record on welcoming people, although they have done a noteworthy amount, “but generally, it’s about us remembering those around the world, those 68 million people who are migrants.

"And it’s also an opportunity to encourage the churches to reflect on what it means to be a city, a place, a church and it's a call to Christianity to enter into that wonderful way that we have been encourage to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly before God and ask ourselves: what does that mean?"

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