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26 June - Sanctuary - Rev'd Dr Inderjit Bhogal

Sanctuary: The hospitality of host, guest and stranger


Rev'd Dr Inderjit Bhogal, former President of Methodist Conference, who is now working with Churches Together in Britain and Ireland to develop Churches of Sanctuary.





In the month of June, we annually mark Refugee Week. The Sunday at the end of Refugee Week is the annual Sanctuary Sunday when we are especially encouraged to hold refugees and all our work with them in our prayers.

No one chooses to be a refugee. Wars make refugees. This is the clear lesson from the current Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Looking to the future, sadly, the prediction is that there may be around 1.5 billion people who are climate change refugees as weather becomes more extreme.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) around 90% of the world’s refugees come from a country in or close to war and conflict, and almost 90% of all refugees are either trapped in their own country, or live in countries neighbouring their country of origin. Most of the refugees of the world are taking protection in some of the poorest counties in the world.

And people fleeing danger need sanctuary and will be glad of welcome and hospitality. All refugees should be treated well and equally whatever their ethnicity, nationality, colour, creed and culture.

It is urgent and essential to build sanctuary, cultures of welcome, protective hospitality and safety.

In International law there is no “illegal” or “bogus” asylum seeker. Anyone has the right to apply for asylum in any country that has signed the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, and to remain there until authorities have assessed their claim.

Plans to relocate asylum seekers to another country embed a hostile environment, they penalise already humiliated people, and also contravene international law.

Biblical witness carries a call for protection and safety of people whose lives are in danger while their case is processed, even if they are deemed to have committed a crime.

In Numbers 35, for example, we read that God called on Moses to set up Cities of Refuge to ensure this. In this wisdom is the root of the contemporary movement and network of City of Sanctuary which has also led to the development of the Church of Sanctuary idea.

City of Sanctuary is a contemporary expression of a City of Refuge.

Churches Together in Britain and Ireland are now working to grow the idea of Church of Sanctuary. Can your Church be a Church of Sanctuary?

A Church of Sanctuary will respond to refugees with hospitality as a clear way of challenging hostility, and do this as integral to Christian discipleship, seeking to embed welcome, hospitality and safety right across the ethos of the whole church, the whole congregation.

A good image of sanctuary is reflected in the story of Abraham and Sarah offering shelter and hospitality to passing strangers in the heat of the day by “the oaks of Mamre”, in their tent (Genesis 18:1-8).

This story has to be kept in mind when we reflect on the meaning and message of Jesus sharing hospitality with those he met on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 224: 13-35).

Here Jesus shares hospitality in which he is stranger, and guest and host. 

We’re talking about sanctuary, the hospitality in which we are all host, guest and stranger all at once.

To help you reflect and pray about this more I commend to you a Bible Study resource I have helped to produce. It is entitled SANCTUARY: THE HOSPITALITY OF HOST, GUEST AND STRANGER.

This resource supplements my book Hospitality and Sanctuary for All.

The aim of the book and the bible study resource is to support individuals and worshipping communities to connect stories of refugees within your worship, prayer, action and theological reflection.

The Bible Study resource offers bite sized, seven days of meditations, prayers and action points.

There is a call here to prophetic Christian witness, and expression of hospitality as a clear challenge to hostility.

Resolve to encourage you Church to become, a Church of Sanctuary. There are resources available to assist you with this on the Churches Together in Britain Church of Sanctuary website at:

If I can assist, let me know through Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.

Prayer: Holy God, you are our refuge and shelter, you take sanctuary in us. You know the journeys we all take. To you are known all our hopes and concerns. Your presence surrounds us like a sanctuary. Strengthen our resolve to be people of sanctuary, to build cultures of welcome and hospitality, and to act with protective care for all who are in need of sanctuary. We pray for a world without war in which all can live safely and without fear in their own homes. Bless us and make our efforts fruitful. In the Name of Christ. Amen.

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