I recently managed to find a copy of Jessamyn West's A Quaker Reader, a collection of all kinds of classic (and more unusual) Quaker texts by one of my favourite authors. I've been reading a lengthy extract from George Fox's Journal, and these few sentences struck me very forcibly:

...as I was walking upon the top of the bank there came several poor people, travellers, that I saw were in necessity; and they gave them nothing but said they were cheats. But when they were gone in to their breakfast it grieved me to see such hard-heartedness amongst professors [ie, believers] that I ran after the poor people a matter of a quarter of a mile and gave them some money. I read this the day after putting together the newsletter for our Meeting, which included a very moving report from a Friend who works with asylum seekers in Sunderland, UK, and who is supported by our Meeting in this. Her report drew my attention to the release of a document prepared by the Quaker organisation, The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

"Still Destitute" brings attention to the appalling conditions experienced by people who have been denied asylum in the UK, often for entirely incorrect reasons, but who cannot be returned to their home countries. They are stranded here without the right to housing, education, work, benefits, healthcare or legal representation. Please read the report - it is shaming that such a situation should be allowed to build up in a country which is almost entirely populated by the offspring of asylum seekers, economic migrants and outsiders.

Regardless of what the far right may think, we are not a 'pure race'. If you are not of unmixed Celtic or Pictish blood, you are not an ethnic Briton. We are all mixtures of so many people - Angles, Saxons, Danes, Romans, Normans, Huguenot weavers, displaced persons from all over the world. Our very language shows that.

Asylum seekers are not 'other'. They are not 'cheats'. They are us. They are human. And they deserve to be treated as human.

We can't all work with asylum seekers, but we can all give financial support to those who do. And we can remind people who speak of them as though they were little more than animals that there, but for chance, go you, and me, and our families and friends.

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