Archbishop of Canterbury's Easter sermon blasts Rwanda migrant plan

‘It is the opposite of the nature of God’: Archbishop of Canterbury delivers stinging Easter sermon attacking Rwanda migrant plan – and warns cost of living crisis has families ‘waking up in fear’

  • Justin Welby blasted the government’s Rwanda plan during his Easter sermon 
  • Unlawful migrants in Britain could be sent to African country under scheme 
  • However, it has drawn criticism from a number of rights groups and the UN  
  • Archbishop of Canterbury said today that Easter is for ‘repentance and renewal’
  • And not for ‘sub-contracting our responsibilities’, in reference to sending refugees out of the country

The Archbishop of Canterbury has delivered a stinging sermon to the government over its plan to send unlawful asylum seekers with a one-way ticket to Rwanda which he called ungodly and the cost of living crisis as he says families are ‘waking up in fear’.

In his Easter sermon at Canterbury Cathedral, Justin Welby said the UK has a ‘national responsibility’ as a ‘Christian country’ to not ‘sub-contract our responsibilities’. 

Anyone who arrived in Britain illegally since January 1 could be relocated to Rwanda under the deal.

Boris Johnson’s government said it would help to break people-smuggling networks and stem the flow of migrants across the Channel, which has faced immediate and heavy criticism from politicians and charities.

Mr Welby said the ‘serious’ ethical questions’ over sending asylum seekers abroad cannot ‘stand the judgment of god’. 

The Archbishop also called for a ceasefire in the Russian war on Ukraine and spoke of his concern for families struggling during the cost-of-living crisis and for those bereaved by Covid-19. 

And he said families are waking up in ‘cold homes’ with ’empty stomachs’ as they face higher fuel and energy bills and food prices.  

The Archbishop of Canterbury (pictured today) blasted the government’s Rwanda plan for asylum seekers as the ‘opposite of the nature of God’ 

In his Easter sermon at Canterbury Cathedral, Justin Welby said the UK has a ‘national responsibility’ as a ‘Christian country’ to not ‘sub-contract our responsibilities’

In his 8.10am sermon, the Archbishop said: ‘The resurrection of Jesus is not a magic wand that makes the world perfect.

‘But the resurrection of Christ is the tectonic shift in the way the cosmos works. It is the conquest of death and the opening of eternal life – through Jesus, a gift offered to every human being who reaches out to him.

‘Not just for individuals but setting a benchmark for all of society because God is lord of every society and nation.’ 

He will continue: ‘Let this be a time for Russian ceasefire, withdrawal and a commitment to talks. 

‘This is a time for resetting the ways of peace, not for what Bismarck called blood and iron. Let Christ prevail. Let the darkness of war be banished.

‘And this season is also why there are such serious ethical questions about sending asylum seekers overseas.

‘The details are for politics and politicians. The principle must stand the judgment of God, and it cannot. It cannot carry the weight of resurrection justice, of life conquering death.

‘It cannot carry the weight of the resurrection that was announced first to the least valued, for it privileges the rich and strong.

‘And it cannot carry the weight of our national responsibility as a country formed by Christian values, because sub-contracting out our responsibilities, even to a country that seeks to do well like Rwanda, is the opposite of the nature of God who himself took responsibility for our failures on the cross.’  

He also said the love of god and hope triumphs over ‘nightmares’ and ‘global power’.  

Boris Johnson’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda has today been slammed as an ‘egregious breach of international law’ and ‘really unacceptable’ by the United Nation’s refugee agency. Pictured: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits the command room at the ‘Maritime rescue coordination centre’ in Dover, Britain, April 14, 2022

Migrants wait to disembark at the Port of Dover after being rescued while crossing the English Channel, in Dover, Britain, April 17, 2022

Speaking about the cost-of-living crisis and the pandemic, the Archbishop said: ‘In the UK we might be waking up to lighter mornings and warmer days.

‘But families across the country are waking up to cold homes and empty stomachs as we face the greatest cost-of-living crisis – we have known in our lifetimes.

‘And because of this, they wake up with fear. 

‘Further afield people are waking up to horrors they never imagined possible. 

‘Last month president Zelensky gave a speech in which he said “the end of the world has arrived”. 

‘Ukrainians have woken up to the end of the world as they knew it. 

‘Now they are awakened by the noises of war and the sickening reality of terror. They wake up to mortal fear.’ 

Reflecting, on Mary waking up when Jesus was crucified, he said she awoke ‘grim’ with ‘anger’ at disciples for running away and her ‘misery’ at the future.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby performs the Washing of The Feet ceremony during the Maundy Thursday service at the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, in Kent,

‘Be strong and have courage in your hearts’: Boris Johnson addresses Ukrainians in his Easter message as he highlights triumph of good over evil and life over death


Boris Johnson addressed Ukrainians in his Easter message today, remarking that ‘Christ’s message of hope the triumph of life over death and good over evil will resonate this year perhaps more than any other’.

The Prime Minister, who is now banned from entering Russia following the Kremlin’s sanctions on a dozen other British government members and politicians, told Christians around the world to ‘be strong and have courage in your heart’.

He added: ‘Easter tells us that there is light beyond the darkness, that beyond the suffering lies redemption.’

Moscow has meanwhile accused Britain, with Johnson making a surprise visit to Ukraine last week, of ‘deliberately aggravating the situation surrounding Ukraine, pumping the Kyiv regime with lethal weapons and coordinating similar efforts on the behalf of NATO’ and threatened to expand its sanctions list ‘soon’.

The prime minister also tweeted out an Easter message in Ukrainian today, following a post yesterday in which he vowed to send more aid to Volodymyr Zelensky.

It said: ‘I updated my friend @ZelenskyyUa this afternoon on further military aid we will provide to Ukraine in the coming days.

‘The UK will stop at nothing to ensure Ukrainians have the resources they need to defend their country from the ongoing Russian onslaught.’

Keir Starmer’s message also touched on the conflict and themes of overcoming adversity.

The Labour leader said, in his address to ‘Christians around the world’: ‘I know you draw inspiration from the life of Jesus and the Easter story which is a message of overcoming adversity and of hope. Of light overcoming darkness.

‘And at this pivotal time, when Europe is at war and people are facing greater poverty at home, hope is more important than ever.

‘Thank you and Happy Easter.’

Yesterday Pope Francis called for ‘gestures of peace in these days marked by the horror of war’ in an Easter vigil homily in St Peter’s Basilica attended by the mayor of the occupied Ukrainian city of Melitopol.

Ivan Fedorov was abducted and held for five days by Russian troops after they occupied Melitopol, a strategic southern city.

Francis noted that while ‘many writers have evoked the beauty of starlit nights…nights of war, however, are riven by streams of light that portend death’.

He did not refer directly to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but he has called for an Easter truce in order to reach a negotiated peace.

Francis also addressed Mr Fedorov and Ukrainian legislators Maria Mezentseva, Olena Khomenko and Rusem Umerov, who sat all together in the front row.

He said: ‘In this darkness of war, in the cruelty, we are all praying for you and with you this night. We are praying for all the suffering.

‘We can only give you our company, our prayer.’

Francis added that ‘the biggest thing you can receive: Christ is risen’. He spoke the last three words in Ukrainian.

The messages of hope come as Zelensky last night warned that Russia is willing to use nuclear weapons to bring a catastrophic end to its invasion of Ukraine.

He urged the world to ‘prepare’ for the worst by stocking up on anti-radiation medicine and building air raid shelters.

The comedian-turned-war time leader made the doomsday warning during an interview with national media, before sharing the clip via his Telegram channel.

He made a similar announcement on Friday, when he said it could not be ruled out that Vladimir Putin would use tactical nukes, as his war against Ukraine continues to stall.

On Saturday Russia resumed missile and rocket attacks on Kyiv, western Ukraine and beyond in a stark reminder that the whole country remains under threat.

Today Ukraine and Russia failed to agree about humanitarian convoys for the evacuation of civilians from war-affected areas, Ukraine’s deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has said.

‘We have not been able to agree…about ceasefires on evacuation routes. That is why, unfortunately, we are not opening humanitarian corridors today,’ she said on her Telegram account.

She added that the Ukrainian authorities have asked for humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians and wounded Ukrainian troops from the besieged port of Mariupol.

He added: ‘Such a sense of helplessness will have been common this morning. 

‘Many will be awakened in refugee camps separated from loved ones on the front line, grieving for those missing, raped, abused or killed wondering how to cope.  

‘For many in this country, the news from Ukraine is terrible but the rising cost of power and fuel, of basic foods, will be the first and overwhelming thought of the day.

‘For others it will be the continued deep sense of loss of someone from Covid, or during Covid, to whom they could not say a proper farewell.

‘The news might move on but grief does not. 

‘Others will be struggling at work or feel a deep sense of injustice at the way they’ve been mistreated by friends, families or employers.’ 

Reflecting on what the resurrection means for us as individuals, the Archbishop will say: ‘In dying for us, [God] sees and knows the wounds that cause us so much pain.

‘He hears the cry of the mothers in Ukraine, he sees the fear of boys too young to become soldiers, [and] he knows the vulnerability of the orphans and refugees.

‘Closer to home, he sees the humiliation of the grandparent visiting the food bank for the first time, the desperate choice of parents in poverty and the grief and weariness of the pandemic.’

On Saturday, a peer suggested that the Government’s plan may breach the Geneva conventions, a peer has suggested. 

Former child refugee and Labour peer Alf Dubs said ministers would face opposition in the Lords over the plan unveiled by Home Secretary Priti Patel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week.

In an interview with The Guardian, Lord Dubs said the Government was attempting to ‘ride roughshod’ over international agreements.

He said: ‘I think it’s a way of getting rid of people the Government doesn’t want, dumping them in a distant African country, and they’ll have no chance of getting out of there again.

‘I think it’s a breach of the 1951 Geneva conventions on refugees. You can’t just shunt them around like unwanted people.’

It comes as it was reported that Ms Patel took the rare step of issuing a ministerial direction to overrule concerns of civil servants about whether the concept will deliver value for money.

As part of the plan designed to curb migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats, those who are deemed to have entered Britain by unlawful means since January 1 may be sent to Rwanda where they will be permitted to apply for asylum in the African country.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the claimed use of the ministerial direction by the Home Secretary was only the second deployment of the power within the Home Office in the past 30 years.

The Home Office declined to comment on the matter when approached by the PA news agency.

Speaking to Times Radio on Saturday, shadow prisons minister Ellie Reeves said: ‘The UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) has come out really, really strongly condemning the Government’s proposals, as have many organisations, and it seems the Government’s own civil servants have expressed huge misgivings about the plans, which seem to be completely misguided.’

The Labour politician said: ‘The Government is going to be paying £120 million upfront before any asylum seekers will be sent to Rwanda.

‘Asylum seekers are saying it won’t deter them from crossing the Channel.

‘We are in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis so it doesn’t seem the right way to be spending money on an unethical and unworkable scheme that won’t deter people from coming over.’

She later added: ‘The whole system needs looking at again, so rather than making sweeping statements – these announcements that are completely unworkable and incredibly expensive – what the Government actually needs to do is get to grips with the system and put in place a system that actually works, increase prosecutions and clamp down on criminal gangs.’

But Ms Patel said Denmark could be among those to reproduce the UK Government’s ‘blueprint’.

‘There is no question now that the model we have put forward, I’m convinced is world class and a world first, and it will be used as a blueprint going forward, there’s no doubt about that,’ Ms Patel said.

‘I would not be surprised if other countries start coming to us direct on the back of this as well.’

The Home Secretary said Copenhagen was in talks with Rwanda as well, adding the Council of Europe ‘have also basically said they are interested in working with us’.

The Home Office denied its approach was in breach of refugee agreements.

But Lord Dubs, who came to the UK from then Czechoslovakia on one of the Kindertransport trains in 1939, told The Guardian there would be legal challenges and opposition by peers.

‘If (Ms Patel) says she’ll get rid of the lefty lawyers’ claims, well, I think she may have another thing coming. My understanding is that they’re going to have real difficulties in getting this through anyway,’ he said.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (left) carries a wooden cross during the Walk of Witness at St Mary’s Church, Sellindge, Kent, as he carries out his Holy Week engagements

Migrants travelling to the UK on small boats will be put on jets and sent to Rwanda while their applications are processed. Pictured: A map detailing the plan proposed by the Prime Minister

On Friday, the United Nations also criticised the proposal as an ‘egregious breach of international law’. Gillian Triggs, a UNHCR assistant secretary-general, said the agency ‘strongly condemns outsourcing the primary responsibility to consider the refugee status.’ 

Put to her that Australia had effectively deployed a similar tactic to cut migration numbers, Ms Triggs said: ‘My point is, just as the Australian policy is an egregious breach of international law and refugee law and human rights law, so too is this proposal by the United Kingdom Government.

‘It is very unusual, very few states have tried this, and the purpose is primarily deterrent – and it can be effective, I don’t think we’re denying that.

‘But what we’re saying at the UN refugee agency is that there are much more legally effective ways of achieving the same outcome.’

She said attempting to ‘shift responsibility’ for asylum seekers arriving in Britain was ‘really unacceptable’.

A view of facilities at Hope House, a hostel in Nyabugogo, the Gasabo district of the capital city Kigali, in Rwanda – where migrants shipped from Britain will initially be taken

Ms Triggs pointed out that Israel had attempted to send Eritrean and Sudanese refugees to Rwanda, but that they ‘simply left the country and started the process all over again’.

‘In other words, it is not actually a long-term deterrent,’ she added.

In response to the UNHCR, the Home Office insisted to the MailOnline that ‘Rwanda is a fundamentally safe and secure country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers.’ It noted that the UNHCR has previously sad the country is safe for refugees.

‘Under this agreement, Rwanda will process claims in accordance with the UN Refugee Convention, national and international human rights laws, and will ensure their protection from inhuman and degrading treatment or being returned to the place they originally fled,’ the Home Office’s statement said. 

‘There is nothing in the UN Refugee Convention which prevents removal to a safe country,’ it added.

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