The Archbishop of Canterbury has compared Syria’s refugees to Jesus as his rationale for offering a four bedroomed cottage in the grounds of Lambeth Palace to “one or two” Syrian families. The offer came after the Pope said he would host two families in the Vatican.
A spokesman for the Archbishop has confirmed that the cottage is currently being redecorated in preparation for receiving the migrants, and that, “as a Christian who leads the Church of England it is something he feels absolutely passionate about.”
She continued: “As the Archbishop has said, Jesus was a refugee, and there are refugees here who are desperate for sanctuary from war-torn places and the Archbishop is completely torn about their situation and wants to make a difference.”
He will be paying for the renovation and re-homing out of his own discretionary fund, she confirmed.
The four bedroomed house could provide a home for “a family or two,” she said, although the Home Office has stipulated that any property offered must be “self-contained” meaning that it is likely to approve the house for the use of one family only.
The Archbishop is not the first to have drawn a link between Jesus as a refugee and the migrants currently crossing Europe. In a short video which has been doing the rounds on social media, Dr Chris Tilling, Senior New Testament Lecturer at St Mellitus College, urges Christians to help the migrants, reasoning: “The Bible is a story about refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.
“Christians are all in a sense migrants, because our citizenship is in heaven. This story climaxes in Jesus who was himself a refugee. Matthew tells us that Jesus fled from Herod to Egypt. God himself, the Gospels tell us, became a refugee for us.
“So each of these children and families that we have seen in the news, whatever their religion, represent Jesus Christ to us.”
Britain has promised to take in 20,000 Syrians directly from refugee camps in the Middle East over the next five years, a policy which the Archbishop has criticised, calling it a “very slim response” in the context of the 120,000+ the EU Commission is hoping to resettle.
He also expressed concern that drawing the migrants directly from the camps would mean that Christians in the region would be excluded, as they tend to avoid the camps for fear of persecution. Addressing the House of Lords, he said that “within the camps there is significant intimidation and radicalisation, and many particularly of the Christian population who have been forced to flee are unable to be in the camps”.
The Archbishop’s offer comes after the Vatican offered to house two families, and confirmed that one family was already living within one of its parishes. The St Anna parish is now home to a family of four – father, mother and two children – who fled their home in Damascus. The family are believed to be Christians of the Catholic Greek Melkite rite.
The Vatican confirmed the family are staying at an apartment near St Peter’s, and that they had immediately followed procedures to apply for asylum in Italy.
The Archbishop’s offer may be spurned by the British government as it insists that migrants must have their own houses, rather than be placed without the confines of someone else’s property.