Welsh Christian leaders have called on the press and media to change the way they deal with stories relating to refugees and immigrants. They allege that the coverage is mostly negative, which clashes with evidence of the warm welcome refugees have had in many communities. In a letter to media editors, the church leaders – which include the Revd Dr Geraint Tudur, General Secretary of the Union of Welsh Independents – declare their support for Christian Aid’s campaign, which calls on the press and media to ‘Change the Story. ‘
The letter speaks of 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.”
“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.”
As well as Dr Geraint Tudur, the letter was 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, the moderator of the United Reformed Church National Synod of Wales, the Revd Simon Walkling, the Most Revd Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales and bishops 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.