18 May 2024

Asylum seekers: Love that transcends boundaries

Major Heather Grinsted

A photo shows the wing of an aeroplane in flight.

Major Heather Grinsted reflects on the recent passing of the Rwanda Bill.

How many of us would leave everything that’s familiar with family and friends, and travel miles to a place we know little or nothing about? People who leave their home and travel on journeys fraught with danger often do so because they are desperate, escaping violence, persecution or disasters, such as floods and famine.

Asylum seekers – people who seek international protection due to persecution or harm in their home country – are some of the most vulnerable people in the world, and caring for the vulnerable is at the core of our faith.

You won’t find the term ‘asylum seeker’ in the Bible, but Scripture has plenty to say about ‘strangers’, ‘sojourners’ and ‘foreigners’. God is clear that his heart is for the asylum seeker and calls us to emulate him.

‘[God] defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing’ (Deuteronomy 10:18).

‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God’ (Leviticus 19:33 and 34).

Let us think of this vulnerable group in our society in the middle of detention and deportation threats. The Salvation Army has expressed grave concern at the news that the UK government’s plans to remove asylum seekers to Rwanda passed into legislation through the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act 2024.

‘As a church and charity with significant experience working with people fleeing dangerous situations, we’ve urged the government to concentrate on improving and speeding up the asylum decision-making process in the UK rather than removing people to Rwanda,’ the Army said in an official statement.

The combination of this legislation and the Illegal Migration Act 2023 will also have significant impact on victims of modern slavery who entered the UK irregularly – perhaps under duress or subsequently exploited because of their illegal status – and who now face being detained and possibly removed to Rwanda.

Most people can relate to feeling like an outsider in some way, whether it be due to their race, ethnicity, economic status, religion, nationality, gender or other factors. For Christians, this feeling can be an opportunity for solidarity with asylum seekers and victims of modern slavery, especially when we recognise that we, too, were once strangers to God’s Kingdom and were welcomed in through the grace of God. In this way, the biblical commandment to welcome strangers becomes a powerful expression of our shared humanity and a reflection of the divine love that transcends all boundaries.

Let's pray

Jesus, you meet us at the water’s edge of our ordinary life, when sometimes we feel in great need, we feel defeated and hopeless. You accept us lovingly. You encourage us. You invite us into fullness of life. Nourished by the food of your word, warmed by the fire of your unfailing love, may we in turn nourish, heal and love those we meet. Amen.

Lord God, in great concern we pray for all those seeking asylum in the UK and across the world today, people filled with desperation, fear and worry. We bring to you those in the UK who are at risk of removal to Rwanda. Some may have never heard of Rwanda and may not know how they will adjust to life there. Others may be frightened of what life may hold for them there. Some who are at risk of removal we may know personally, and it cuts our hearts as we feel their fear. Some have been, and are, at risk of being trafficked and exploited. Many are separated from their families and loved ones. Father, there are those still recovering from suffering, who are at risk of being retraumatised by these plans. Lord, work in the hearts of the officials who make decisions, the governments who make policies, and us, your people, as we engage in this situation to effect change and justice. Amen.

Lord God, we come to you and ask that your justice will roll like a river throughout our world that is so damaged by corruption, injustice, selfishness, violence, war – all that separates us from you and your will for the world. We ask you, Lord, to strengthen us as we seek justice and to shape us into people who will live out lives in and by your righteousness. As we become aware of things that are not right, help us to boldly call and work for the abolition of the evils that infect our world. Amen.

Reflect and respond

  • Pray for those affected by this legislation.
  • Pray for those supporting them and providing guidance and information.
  • Pray that policymakers will understand the impact such legislation has on people’s lives.

Written by

The Salvation Army red shield

Major Heather Grinsted

Deputy Director of Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery, THQ

Discover more

The Salvation Army's International Positional Statement on Refugees and Asylum Seekers.

Supporting and resourcing local expressions of The Salvation Army to help people seeking sanctuary.

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