Stories of Welcome


Caritas Westminster has teamed up with the Anglican Dioceses of London and of Southwark to celebrate the many ways that churches from across London and east Surrey welcome people seeking sanctuary, and raise their voices to speak out for social justice. 

The joint ecumenical event, held on Monday evening at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street, was an opportunity to celebrate and to highlight the stories of welcome that church communities have a hand in creating. A range of resources, including videos, a booklet and an infographic illustrating the asylum system were also launched to show the many forms that welcome can take and to encourage other people to get involved. 

The five videos are being released throughout Refugee Week, which lasts until Sunday 26th June. Among the videos is the story of St Mary of the Angels, Bayswater, where Monseigneur Keith Barltrop welcomes guests, largely with No Recourse to Public Funds, through the Jesuit Refugee Service’s ‘At Home’ Scheme. Of the scheme, he said: “I find it very enriching to be a refugee host…If you think you can do it, I would say it’s an extremely worthwhile thing to do; it’s a tremendous opportunity.”

In a joint statement in the booklet, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, the Right Revd Paul McAleenan, the Bishop of Stepney, the Right Revd Dr Joanne Woolway Grenfell, and the Bishop of Southwark, the Right Revd Christopher Chessun, assert: ‘People arriving in our churches seeking sanctuary have many different reasons to be there and different stories to tell. We welcome them all and seek to show them God’s love.’ 

Bishop Paul McAleenan, Bishop Joanne Grenfell, Maimuna Jawo, Bishop Christopher Chessun
Bishop Paul McAleenan, Bishop Joanne Grenfell,
Maimuna Jawo, Bishop Christopher Chessun

Asylum seeker Maimuna Jawo shared her powerful testimony, speaking about how truly alienating and hard it is to be in the asylum system. She asserted that all she and other people seeking sanctuary want is freedom. Alongside Maimuna was an opening prayer from Bishop Joanne Grenfell and key-note speeches from Bishop Paul McAleenan and Bishop Christopher Chessun.

Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster and Lead for Migrants Issues at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, the Right Revd Paul McAleenan, said: 

“As we come to hear these Stories of Welcome, we must remember refugees, migrants and asylum seekers are like ourselves…but their common experience is of being dehumanised.  
Welcoming the stranger is integral to the human faith, not an add on. Human beings are of infinite worth and a dignity. Anything that impinges on the humanity of refugees has to be resisted.” 

Bishop of Southwark, the Right Revd Christopher Chessun said: 

“Every time we welcome someone into our country, church, community, homes and lives, we are welcoming Christ. Everyone can be part of a story of welcome”

The videos and other resources can be found here.

Bishop Paul’s full address can be found here

Bishop Christopher’s full address can be found here



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