Jesus was a refugee, says Archbishop of Canterbury in New Year message

The Most Rev Justin Welby said Britain had always welcomed the 'poor and weak'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged people to use "hospitality and love" to defeat "hatred and extremism" in a New Year message pointing to the plight of refugees.

At the end of a year where headlines were dominated by the migration crisis, the Most Rev Justin Welby said Britain had always welcomed the "poor and weak".

He spoke of how Jesus was a refugee, fleeing as a baby with his parents, and who would go on to call on people to "welcome the alien and stranger".

The Most Rev Welby also told of an inspiring meeting he had at Marsh Academy in Kent with a boy who aged 14 fled his homeland in north Africa in search of a safer life.

Soldiers who stormed his school tried to abduct him but he was saved by a "courageous" teacher. However, the experience left the boy so terrified he decided to escape.

"This is just one example of the many desperate journeys children are making on their own to save their lives," the Most Rev Welby said in his message, to be broadcast on BBC One on New Year's Day.

"This school represents the best of what we can do in this country. It welcomes, it loves, it serves, it teaches and equips people and demonstrates our ability to live up to our long-established tradition of warmth and hospitality.

"It's not a rich school; many families in the area are struggling on a day-to-day basis. And yet this school and surrounding community are astonishingly generous. If they can do it, so can we all."

He said his visit to the school brought to mind a chapel in Canterbury Cathedral set aside in the 16th Century for refugees fleeing persecution in France.

And the Most Rev Welby went on: "In today's world, hospitality and love are our most formidable weapons against hatred and extremism.

"I have met some extraordinary people today, from this area and those who have risked their lives to find safety. The hospitality of people here brings love, hope and joy.

"If we imitate them, society becomes a far better place."