The Diocese of Plymouth Youth Events Coordinator, Saskia Hogbin, organised a social justice weekend on 21-22 October building on the recent Catholic Social Teaching document from the Bishops of England and Wales – Love the Stranger. Working with the Columbans, young people from across the Diocese were invited to meet other young people who have experienced the asylum system in England and are willing to talk about their journeys and experiences. This work is supported by Stories of Hope and Home.

The group were very struck by the challenges and barriers facing people seeking asylum and at the end of the weekend, they created a draft letter to their local MPs.  The letter is a wonderful example of our faith in action with young people seeking to bring about changes to a system which does not offer dignity and support to those in need.

If you, like our young people, feel called to take action, you can find lots of suggestions in the CSAN Call to Action document which provides practical ideas to implement Love the Stranger.

“Dear Richard Foord, Selaine Saxby, Conor Burns, Simon Jupp, Mel Stride and Anne Marie Morris,

Thanks for representing our areas.

This weekend a group of Catholic young people and leaders gathered to learn and pray about how Britain welcomes people seeking safety. We learned lots – including about how asylum seekers are treated. The Catholic Church teaches us that we should ‘love our neighbour’. In fact, the Catholic Bishops recently wrote a letter to us all about welcoming refugees – it reminds us that it is “our Christian duty to look beyond such labels and see the person who has left their homeland in search of a better life.”

We feel concerned that people have to wait so long to be granted refugee status and get on with their lives, and that they can’t work during this time. The asylum seekers we had the privilege of meeting had experienced so much challenge in their lives – fleeing their countries, experiencing homelessness and now, forced to wait, and even facing discrimination and dispersal around the UK. We would like Britain to do better.

We therefore ask you to do all you can to speed up the process of claiming asylum in the UK, and to commit to lifting the ban on asylum seekers working. Please let us know what actions you will take to do this.

Thank you for your help

Young people and leaders from the Catholic Diocese of Plymouth, including residents of Tiverton and Honiton, Devon North, Bournemouth West, East Devon, Central Devon and Newton Abbot”