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PILGRIMS PROGRESS AUGUST 2012 Wakefield Express August 31st 2012

In ancient times the Stranger was under the guardianship of the King of the Gods, so to abuse or refuse welcome to the Stranger was a sacrilege. The reason for this high religious status for the Stranger was that the customs and laws of citizenship at the time allowed no rights whatsoever to the Stranger. Today our laws and customs have developed somewhat. Since the middle of the last century Refugees and Asylum Seekers, the modern Stranger, have been protected by the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees. Why the history lesson? A few weeks ago it was announced in this newspaper that Angel Lodge is very likely to be reopened as an Initial Accommodation facility for Yorkshire and Humberside. The opening words were somewhat tendentious, ‘A controversial hostel for asylum seekers looks set to reopen next month’ (my italics), and referred to the protests which accompanied its previous opening in 2007; but, in balance, the article also told of the direct threats to life from which Asylum Seekers are fleeing. So how are we, the Community of Wakefield, to respond to this event? It largely turns on our general attitude to the Stranger. Is the Stranger potentially friendly or hostile? As far as the Christian is concerned, the Stranger is the former, a potential friend. He or she may prove, alas, to be an enemy, but that is the risk of life itself. In the vast majority of cases, however, the Stranger becomes manifest as the Friend and that is the reward which a true welcome wins. When it becomes clear how Angel Lodge is to be run, I will submit an article offering suggestions as to how we can implement a city-wide policy of welcome to these Strangers.

Brian Hamill
(Secretary Wakefield District City of Sanctuary)