On Sunday 12 March 2023, Revd Dr Inderjit Bhogal, the lead person of the Church of Sanctuary movement, presented Church of Sanctuary awards to five Methodist Churches in the Brighton and Hove Circuit at a service in the seaside city of Brighton and Hove. He also had the pleasure of welcoming the entire Brighton and Hove Circuit as a ‘Circuit of Sanctuary’.

Read the full article on the Church of Sanctuary website


Applying for ‘asylum’ is not a crime, but criminalising people for even trying to get to a safe place is a crime against humanity

Inderjit Bhogal, 2023

Applying for ‘asylum’ is not a crime, but criminalising people for even trying to get to a safe place is a crime against humanity. Detaining and deporting them without even considering their story and claim is immoral and unethical. Those who exploit already vulnerable people making money from them are those committing crime. Stop them, don’t stop the boats. Government also should halt inhumane responses to a human catastrophe, and already vulnerable human beings.

Numbers of people seeking sanctuary in the UK have not ‘soared’. Germany, France and Spain each receive more people seeking sanctuary than does the UK. We can do better.

The UK Nationality and Borders Bill and the current plan to stop people arriving in the UK on small boats seeking sanctuary contravenes the 1951 UN Refugee Convention to which the UK remains a signatory, and also the EU Convention on Human Rights. Applying for asylum is a legitimate right which is not affected by the mode of travel. It is unjust that ‘asylum’ claims are judged by how people travel, not by what they are fleeing (as required by the 1951 UN Refugee Convention). 

Way back in 1951 the UK was among one hundred and forty-seven countries that signed the UN Refugee Convention, in the context of millions of people made homeless by World War Two. The Convention defines who a refugee is, it does not distinguish between ‘asylum seekers’ and ‘refugees’. It also tells us that refugees should be protected without discrimination, and that they should not be returned to face persecution. It further makes clear the fact that international cooperation is required to protect refugees.

If there is a crisis, it lies in the inefficient Home Office decision-making processes on asylum claims

The Refugee Convention has saved millions of lives. However, it was drafted seventy-two years ago, and is not a perfect instrument. It does not, for example, extend protection to people fleeing war, or genocide, or famine, or domestic violence, or trafficked women, children and men, or extreme weather. We do need a broader definition of who a refugee is.

Ninety percent of the world’s refugees are from countries in or close to war and conflict. The long-term solution is a cessation of this violence, and tackling economic inequality, extremist ideology and ecological degradation. 

The Home Secretary’s language of ‘crisis’ and ‘invasion’ misrepresents the reality and is unhelpful in the context, and only helps to legitimise hatred and hate speech. The firebombing of an immigration centre in Kent, and violent protests outside hotels accommodating asylum seekers illustrates this.

The numbers of people seeking sanctuary in the UK is small. Images of people arriving on the shores of Kent don’t give the full picture.  According to the Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, 56,495 people claimed asylum in the UK in 2021 compared to 103,081 in 2002. This is not an invasion or crisis. Almost half of those who come to Britain from outside Europe come here for family reasons.

If there is a crisis, it lies in the inefficient Home Office decision-making processes on asylum claims. Ten years ago around eighty percent of asylum cases were processed within six months. Today it takes considerably longer. The process needs to be speeded up, but this should not be at the expense of listening with care to the stories of asylum seekers. More well-trained officers are required. 

Crossing borders is nothing new. It is part of being human to move for personal, social and economic safety and security. The Bible is a story of a people on the move, in exile, and a migrant God. There are no insurmountable obstacles or borders, be they hostile environments of deserts, seas or humans. Migration is in the purposes of God.  

Borders, as understood today, are a relatively recent creation. Most borders were formed after World War Two. There are no open or completely sealed borders. In the European Union borders are open between member states. ‘Brexit’ was a rejection of this arrangement in British politics in order to ‘take control of our own borders’. 

One lesson we have to draw from our situation now is that it makes no sense to go it alone in border controls. Many European workers, essential to the British economy, have left. European countries are no longer part of the process to assist Britain manage the refugees coming across the English Channel. We are not in control of our own borders this is becoming clear.

Nations now expend huge budgets on immigration and border control. The UK Home Office paid France £54 million in 2021 to police the Channel with more pledged recently, and up to the end of October 2022 had spent £130 million on the so-called Rwanda policy. A hostile tone is portrayed to deter or stop refugees. 

There is a growing challenge to this hostile environment, not least from those who see freedom of movement across borders as the way ahead. This includes well-researched and well-reasoned calls for open borders on the basis that migration is an essential part of being human, will increase in the future, and is a solution not a problem. For example, Caplan (2019), Mehta (2019), Khanna (2021), and Vince (2022) all argue in favour of open borders, presenting immigrants as generators of wealth, not as threats. 

Opening borders is not about abolishing them, but accepting immigrants at ports of entry with compassion, not cruelty. The global northern countries have a moral obligation to give sanctuary to those whose lives they endanger and impoverish by climate change and war. Immigration is the result of a long colonial history, and now seen as part of reparations.

Recognising we have become a planet on the move, we need policies which are not focussed on preventing migration, but providing strategies for dealing with the inevitable and integrating new arrivals more successfully and humanely. Human beings search for safety and stability. Mass migration is essential and the best way forward for humanity in a globally warmer world. In this scenario human beings will do what they have always done throughout history, and that is to move. But this time on a scale not seen before. Most of these migrants will move to cooler northern and southern regions. The biggest obstacle to movement of people today is represented by borders. 

Theologian Gemma Tulud (2014) makes a strong, coherent, cohesive and compassionate case for theological reflection on migration, exploring the positive dimensions of migration and migrants. Working from a theology of ‘one bread, one body, one people’ she argues for social justice in immigration.

What this means for me is, investment in instruments of healing not hurting, compassion not cruelty; processes to manage not prevent immigration; broadening the definition of refugee; creating safe passage for people seeking sanctuary and refugees, not reducing them; supporting search and rescue of those in danger; care and speed in asylum decision and ending detention of already hurting people; establishing the right for asylum seekers to work; building cultures of welcome, hospitality and sanctuary (Bhogal, 2021).

It is possible to protect borders and provide reformed immigration and asylum policies that are based on justice, mercy and humility. Resettlement Schemes can be expanded and enhanced with quality inclusion and integration support of refugees and people seeking sanctuary. As a member of the United Nations and a signatory of the UN Refugee Convention the UK should share the responsibility for the protection of refugees globally.

Thousands of years ago, as recorded in the Bible, God called on people to provide safety in Cities of Refuge to vulnerable people while their case is processed (Numbers 35, Joshua 20). This is ancient and sacred wisdom contained in codes of holiness, and is at the root of the City of Sanctuary and Church of Sanctuary network.

What is happening at national borders reveal the broken points of the world. Borders can be points where nations can meet and explore shared responses, and ways to manage migration. God speaks to humanity from these open wounds and visible scars, calling for justice, mercy and humility, and building human connection.

Hundreds of thousands of people, including many church congregations, are working with people seeking sanctuary at local level to build cultures of welcome, hospitality and safety support, and Churches of Sanctuary. Many more are ready and willing to express warmth and generosity, seeking justice. Becoming a Church/Meeting of Sanctuary is a way of engaging a whole congregation in the challenges addressed above (for more information see the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland Church of Sanctuary website).

On 12 March 2023, the Brighton and Hove Methodist Circuit will be recognised as the first Circuit of Sanctuary in the UK. The Circuit has been well supported in this journey by Sanctuary on Sea (Brighton and Hove City of Sanctuary). This is truly inspirational work, and a great model and inspiration for other Churches and faith centres to achieve Sanctuary Awards in the future. This work at the local level shows that the guiding principles of welcome, hospitality, safety and compassion are compelling, and bringing people of different faiths, and those who profess no particular faith to work together to support refugees and people seeking sanctuary. This is a growing and positive message that challenges the current Government policy.

Inderjit Bhogal, former President of the British Methodist Conference, and Founder of the City of Sanctuary network and movement, passionately committed to the achievement of justice in immigration especially for people seeking sanctuary and refugees

Also read Inderjit’s blog on the Church of Sanctuary website and the Modern Church website


Betts, A. and Collier, P. 2017. Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System. Penguin. London.
Bhogal, Inderjit. 2021. Hospitality and Sanctuary for All. Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, London
Caplan, Bryan. 2019. Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration. First Second, New York
Gaia, Vince 2022. Nomad Century: How to Survive the Climate Upheaval. Allen Lane, London
Khanna, Parag. 2021. Move: How Mass Migration Will Reshape the World – and What it Means for You. Weidenfield and Nicholson, New York
Mehta, Suketu. 2019. This is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifest. Jonathan Cape, London
Tulud, Gemma, C. 2014. Toward a Theology of Immigration: Social Justice and Religious Experience. Palgrave and Macmillan, New York


The two candidates for the role of Prime Minister have pledged to sustain the Rwanda policy. I appeal to them both to rescind the policy.

Many UK citizens have taken to the streets, spoken out, and launched legal challenges to the government determination to send refugees arriving here beside the cliffs of Dover to Rwanda. They have stood up to injustice, and shown commitment to challenge hostility, and to build cultures of welcome, hospitality and sanctuary for all. The politics behind this legislation appears to be to sustain a hostile environment as a deterrence to refugees, to frighten them, to discourage them from coming here. There is no evidence to suggest any policy of deterrence is working.

The beautiful country of Rwanda is already taking in refugees from neighbouring countries. This is remarkable feat for a nation recovering from the wounds of genocide. We should not require or pay Rwanda to receive people seeking sanctuary in the UK.

The politics behind the British government policy to send people seeking sanctuary here to Rwanda are shameful. I am appealing to the next Prime Minister of the UK to rescind this policy. It contravenes the UN Refugee Convention to which Britain is a signatory.

No one wants to be a refugee. No one wants to leave their home. Danger to life drives people to abandon their homes and to seek sanctuary elsewhere.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are now more than 100 million refugees in the world. Ninety percent of the world’s refugees are from countries in or close to conflict. Ninety percent of them are either trapped in their own countries or take shelter in neighbouring countries. For example, Iranians and Kurds in to Turkey, Afghanis to Pakistan, Syrians to Lebanon, Somalis to Uganda, Congolese to Rwanda, Ukrainians to Poland. A very small number of the world’s refugees come to Europe, with Germany hosting the biggest number. Britain is host to one percent of the world’s refugees. We can be more generous.

Wars make refugees. This is a clear lesson of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. It is further predicted that extreme weather will add to refugee numbers in the next 20 to thirty years. The number of people without food to eat is at a record high. The upward trend of refugee numbers will continue unless there is an international resolve to tackle the root causes of human displacement such as violent conflict, war, poverty and climate change.

The approach to the refugees from Ukraine has demonstrated the fact that it is possible to provide safe, humanitarian routes for refugees coming to the UK. Our refugee policies must treat all refugees with care and compassion irrespective of nationality, ethnicity, skin colour and mode of travel.  

We desperately need a coordinated international response to the rising number of refugees. Any attempt by any country to go solo on managing borders is bound to fail.

Inderjit Bhogal

28 July 2022

Church of Sanctuary

The Church of Sanctuary webinar which took place on Wednesday 24th March. 

Inspired to find out more on how to become a Church of Sanctuary in your area?

What is a Church of Sanctuary?

Churches should be welcoming places of safety for all and proud to offer sanctuary to people fleeing violence and persecution. St Nicholas, Bristol, and Six Ways Erdington Baptist Church are Churches of Sanctuary, and Derby Cathedral is a Cathedral of Sanctuary.

Hospitality and Sanctuary for All

If you would like to order ‘Hospitality and Sanctuary for All’ by Inderjit Bhogal, published by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI), as discussed in the webinar, please find further details on the flyer here.   

Watch and Listen Again

The recording of the Church of Sanctuary webinar is now available to watch again on the CTBI website.

More information

Visit Hospitality and Sanctuary for All (

If you have any questions, or would like any other information, please do not hesitate to contact 

Inderjit’s Pause for Thought(s) on BBC Radio 2

Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2

Listen to Inderjit’s 4-part series on Pause for Thought that aired throughout the first quarter of 2021

My Biggest Temptation…

Pause For Thought: ‘Temptation is about going against rules.’

The Real Me…

Pause For Thought: “Who I am is more than where I come from.”

World Book Day…

Pause For Thought: “Books take me to places I cannot visit, and to people I cannot see.”

The Most Amazing Invention…

Pause For Thought: “Sharing bread is an act of love and inclusion, a sign of respect for the people around you.”

SATA BHOGAL: Father, Brother, Son, Uncle, Friend



We are all here because Satnam, our dear Sata has died.

I want to start by expressing the sorrow of all the wider family to Aunty Ji, Supriya, Simran, Rai, Daniel, Purdy, Bally, Bindri, Nimba and all the family.

We are with you in your sorrow and pain.

Here we are 30 in this room, but many more online.

Thank you joining in today.

Your company is a great strength.

Everyone has a story, and everyone’s story is special.

When someone dies, we are left with their story, and our memories of them.

It is important to tell the story and share our memories.

First hold out your arms like this, now do this (wrap around your shoulders), this is how Sata always greeted us, with a big hug.

Dekh lawo, chori, choric chale geya. He stole away from us quietly.

Koi bimari nahi si. He had no illness.

Galan karda, pishle door thani chup kar ke chale geya, khisk geya. Talking and conversing, he slipped away out of the back door.

Apni maa nu, apni patni, bachea nu, bhena-bhrava nu, andi-quandi nu nahi tung karna chohnda si. He did not wish you give any trouble to his family, friends and neighbours.

Koi smaj nahi ae rahi, ke ho ki geya. It is difficult to find meaning in what has happened.

Dukh de vich apa sare bethe ha. In pain we are seated.

Duur, duur bethe ha. We are seated in distance from  each other.

Mode laga ke ro nahi sakde. We cannot weep with each other, on each other’s shoulders.

Par dil apne nal-nal he, sath sada tuhade nal hae. But our hearts are one with each other, we give each other our company.

Ek batti apni bhug gaye hae, par odi Roshni nahi ghate ghi, naal rahe ghi. A bulb may have gone out, but nothing will remove the light of Sata.

Honsla rakhna, dil bhada kar ke rehna te ek duge di seva karni hae. Let us keep heart, and keep strong, and continue to serve each other.

Bhogla de vich pyar bohut hae, te aida hi pyar rave apna. There is a lot of love among the Bhogals, lets keep this love alive.

Sata dekhal ke geya sanu, pyar ki hunda, and kidan karida. Sata has shown us how to love, and what love is.

I have been asking family members for their special and best memories of Sata.

Sata siga sada shota Bhogal, sub ton vade dil wala, pyar wala. Sata was a young Bhogal, but he had a big heart, and lots of love.

I am old enough to remember Sata being born, I was 20 at the time.

I held him in my arms, I played with him.

Many of my memories of Sata are of him running around in 4 Park Hill Street, in the living room, in the landing, in the garden.

He ruled the stairs, here all the younger members of the family talked and played, with Sata at the centre of all his mates, Purdy, Nimba, Jita, Dala, Pappu, Pinx, Daniel, Jasdeep, Gian, Karam, Prem, Jivan, Liamarjit, Sunny, Aman, Kirthpal, Roopi, all the lads.

Sata was a kind of mentor for those a little younger than him.

He was their footie friend, shared his Megadrive with them.

I’ve just mentioned the lads.

The girls loved him too, Pommy, Goody, Pritpal, Moni, Sandeep, Poonam, Bibby, Michelle, Anjuli, Amber, Jassy. There are more girls who loved him than I can name.

Everyone loved Sata, young and old. Maa, Baap, behn, Bhra, Chaache, Chaachia, Maame, Maamiya, Masr, Masiya

Whether anyone thought of him and a dost or as a dushman, he only gave love.

He was the young Bhogal, but he was a man with a big heart, big love, for everyone.

He never looked at anyone as Dushman or Varry, he treated everyone well and with love and respect.

Sata loved his children above all, Simran, Rai and Daniel, and we know you loved him very much. He was very proud of you. He was a good father.

Sata also had a special bond with Kirthpal, and his dad Kal.

Sata worked with Kal fixing houses, boilers, cars.

Gian and Karam remember him fixing and decorating their room.

For a while he played dholaki like his dad in the Gurdwara.

At Langar, he served others before he ate.

The same at Sheddon Street.

He was a shota Shabba. He was like his dad.

Ao Ji. Come in.

Sat Siri Kal Ji.

Big smile.

Betho ji. Have a seat.

Cha pivo ji. Have some tea.

Happy days, happy memories.

So, of course, Sata was also a delivery man.

He managed drivers and deliveries with Hermes.

I still buy fish and chips from Five Ways Chilly in Rotherham where he delivered fish!

Sata greeted us all with rib breaking hugs.

We have all received regular WhatsApp messages from Sata, with greetings, photos, funny videos.

He regularly sent me photos from years ago, all special memories.

He had a fabulous, infectious laughter.

He cheered us up in every situation, made us laugh.

We can all learn this from Sata.

He was the heart and life and soul of every family gathering, viah-shadi (wedding), birthday party.

Drink in one hand, food in the other, music centre in front of him, blasting out from his room sized speakers, then he would take to the dance floor, and we would all dance with him.

I remember him at Pinx and Kiran’s wedding, at Sunny and all the younger members with him, dancing to “Yeh dosti, hum nahin toran ge” (this friendship we will not break).

There is a memory of him with the younger lads, Sata poured them all a Bacardi drink, knocked it back, gave out a great belch, and said, “right then, where’s the masala fish?”

We loved having Sata at our table at parties.

He went to every table to ask how everyone was.

He took time to check in with everyone.

He treated us with respect.

He had our respect.

He had a very distinctive voice, beautiful smile, awful jokes.

You knew where Sata was from the sound of his voice.

He was a brilliant mimic.

He was the king of the dance floor, bangra.

He created a special atmosphere around him wherever he was.

Sata was very loving and important to all of us, and to so many others.

Sata had much more life to live and love to give.

He was overcome by Covid-19.

Without Covid-19 he would still be here.

And if it had not been Covid-19 there would have been hundreds here today, with many lining up outside.

So we say a fond fare well to Sata.

Fare Well Satya.

All your family and friends bid you fare well.

Our prayer today: Apne charna de vich niwas. Give to Sata, O God, a place in your being and memory.

We take strength from the knowledge that you are with God and in the company of those who went before you.

You and your story have a special place in our memory.

Go well.

I want to say in a big thank you, in closing, to those who have created and contributed to the Crowdfund Page for Sata’s family. The fund stands at almost £10k.

Thank you.

Inderjit Bhogal

30 January 2021

RECONCILIATION: Nigerian Remembrance Day Service


Sisters and Brothers, I greet you all in the Name of Christ and wish upon you the peace and blessings of God.

It is an honour to worship and pray with you today.

I want to thank those who have arranged and managed this very powerful act of witness.

The peace of God on us, and the peace of God on all those who have died in war.

We acknowledge the pain and suffering.

We recognise that war diminishes us all, it reveals the horrors to which human beings can descend, and war is an assault on the Image of God in which we are all created, and therefore a sacrilege.

We commit ourselves again to play our part and contribute to the work of forgiveness, reconciliation, peace and healing.

I oppose war, and support non-violent resolution of all conflict.

We meet close to Epiphany Day, which honours the wisdom of all nations.

The message of the Gospel writers, and the early church, is that the helpless refugee child, not Caesar armed to the teeth, reveals the path to salvation.

We look here for the light of grace that enlightens everyone, as we seek to address the challenges that face us.

We have confidence, as our reading says, that old ways can pass away, there is “new creation”, for it is always the work of God to make all things new.

This is the hope of a ministry of peace and reconcile;iation.

I offer you a short meditation on reconciliation.

In the reading from Scripture, we heard that we are called to be “ambassadors for Christ”, to make God’s appeal through us.

What does this mean?

What wisdom do we draw from Christ and the Gospel of Christ?

In the very first instance, before we challenging anyone else, we ourselves are to be “reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20), to be people who have made peace with God, and are at peace in ourselves.

If you carry peace in your own being you are better equipped to bring peace to others.

Love yourself, so that you can love God, and your neighbour, as yourself.

Being reconciled to God means we are one with God.

Being one with God means to embody God, and to reflect God’s way.

God’s way, as revealed in Christ, is to be in solidarity with humanity, without discrimination, to be inclusive of all people, to feel the hurts and pain of humanity, to hold out the spirit of forgiveness, reconciliation, peace and healing, and always, to keep the possibilities of new beginnings, and hope alive.

 What then is the distinctive contribution of the followers of Jesus, and of the Gospel of Christ to the work of forgiveness, reconciliation, peace and healing?

There are four key elements and movements of the Gospel of Christ, namely:

  • Incarnation: affirming that God is with us
  • Ministry of Christ: a ministry of hospitality and healing
  • Crucifixion: recognising the passion, pain and cost of reconciliation
  • Resurrection: embracing hope, new life and direction, always

First then, Incarnation: God is with us

This is the good news.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

God is One, and is one with people, with all our immense diversity, without discrimination.

In love, forgiveness, grace and generosity God reaches out to a fallen, failing, selfish humanity.

God honours all people, for all are made in the Image of God.

In Christ, God has done the work of “reconciling the world to himself”; God reflects the humility of taking the first step in reconciliation, “without counting human trespasses against them” and “entrusting the message of reconciliation” to us (2 Corinthians 5:19).

In the birth of Christ, God embraces the powerlessness and vulnerability of a new born child.

A child is born with empty hands.

The first requirement in a movement of reconciliation is that weapons are put away, we come to each with empty hands.

I’m sure you have your favourite Christmas Hymns or Carols.

I like Charles Wesley’s Hymn “Let earth and heaven combine”, and especially the lines: “He deigns in flesh to appear, widest extremes to join” (StF 208).

Focus on the words “widest extremes to join”.

It is possible for God and humanity to be joined, to be one.

Widest extremes can join.

When Nelson Mandela became the first black President of South Africa, he made his former enemy F. W. De Klerk of the National Party his Deputy.

Some of you may recall the handshake between two extreme enemies, Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness at the beginning of the Good Friday Peace Agreement in Northern Ireland.

People of widest extremes apart can be friends, can be reconciled, and work together.

We, as people of any nation, church denomination, or congregation are a rich mixture of people, and of many ethnicities and tribes.

We have all the range of diversities, not least the widest extremes in terms of theology.

With our diversity, we are called and committed to a ministry of constructive dialogue and reconciliation.

We want to enable each other to grow and flourish in our relationships.

We do so in the confidence and strength of the good news, God is with us, and when we take the path off reconciliation, of bringing people together, we are taking God’s path. It is a path of holiness.

Secondly, we emulate the Ministry of Christ: it is a ministry of hospitality and healing, not hatred or hurt.

The ministry and practice of Christ was characterised by being a hospitable and healing presence. Jesus had a ministry of hospitality and healing, not harming or hostility.

Jesus’ ministry is revealed as a ministry of

  • Mending hurts
  • Doing good
  • Including the outsider
  • Welcoming the stranger
  • Clothing the naked, visiting the sick and those in prison, sharing food with the hungry and water with the thirsty

Jesus was born empty handed and we never hear of him carrying anything in his hands. He was certainly free of weapons.

Jesus kept an open table, he welcomed all to eat with him, he especially welcomed those who felt most excluded by social, religious or political discrimination.

In ministries of reconciliation, It is essential to build shared, safe spaces where people of different backgrounds can meet, listen to each other in dialogue, share our brokenness and hurts, and feel each other’s points of hurt and grief.

This is relevant in our world characterised by increased military budgets.

Currently the world is spending almost $2,000 billion on military.

This cost cannot be justified in our world of hunger and harm.

We need hospitals, homes, schools.

War as a strategy has failed and is an out-of-date approach to conflict resolution.

We call for commitments and actions consistent with the hospitable and healing ministry and practice of Jesus.

Hospitality offers a better way to respond to difference, transcending social borders, and expressing respect especially for people excluded from the benefits of belonging.

Hospitality offers bread, not bullets and bombs.

Hospitality is a way of non-violence, seeking to bring all participants in any conflict to the table of hospitality and shared dialogue.

The Latin root for reconciliation (CONCILIUM) points to a deliberate process in which conflicting parties meet “in council”, in conversation. Reconciliation is rooted in community, and is the work of communities.

It is important to foster reconciliation in communities, in congregations.

This is the experience of communities of reconciliation such as Corrymeela Community ion Northern Ireland, which has spent 50 years bringing people of opposing backgrounds together for dialogue.

The founder of Corrymeela, the Rev Ray Davey, was fond of saying that if we Christians do not speak of reconciliation, we have nothing to say.

Let me take some of you to Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland soon to learn from their experience.

The third focus of Gospel witness is Crucifixion: reflecting the passion and cost of the cross

The message of the cross is that nothing worth doing is without cost.

There is a cost involved in exercising the ministry of reconciliation.

Jesus was tortured and persecuted and rejected.

Jesus died denied, betrayed and abandoned even by his closest friends.

Being peacemakers and people of reconciliation will not bring you necessarily to a peaceful and tranquil life.

Peace building and reconciliation is hard work and a long road.

Small Christian communities in Panjab, on the borders of India and Pakistan, constantly face threats to their existence, but remain constant under trying circumstances. They bear witness to Christ in environments where the majorities are Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs.

No doubt this can be said of small Christian communities in border lands in Nigeria. Their witness is courageous, and costly.

The ministry of reconciliation is costly and you will have your opponents.

Think about the people best remembered for their non-violence teaching (Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Oscar Romero).

They were killed by opponents.

In a speech in Belfast in 2013 President Barak Obama said it is harder work to make peace.

This is the experience of peace and reconciliation workers in Northern Ireland. They all knew what Mr Obama was saying. All peace activists know and have known this.

So peace-making is hard work. It is not a soft option.

It is a long and winding road, a long term, and difficult task.

It requires hard listening and conversation.

The road is not smooth, it is lumpy, uneven, crooked. This is the uneven ground on which strangers and friends, families and familiar faces cross over to meet each other to address matters of justice and mercy and humility.

It is Gospel wisdom that we have to bear the cross. It is the pathway to resurrection and hope.

With the cross at the centre of our existence, we are called to model leadership that handles power with redemptive love, with a capacity to share and give up power, always seeking to empower others.

The ministry of forgiveness and healing and reconciliation carries what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “the cost of discipleship”.

Fourthly, Resurrection: and the hope held and proclaimed in the resurrection

The resurrection stories in the Gospels insist that there is always a good way ahead.

There is always more. Resurrection calls us never to give up hope.

Always remain hopeful, even in the worst of circumstances.

We acknowledge that the wounds of the past can never be covered up and hidden.

The resurrection narrative recognises this as the risen Christ invites Thomas to reach out and touch the scars of his wounds in his hands and side.

Wounds can heal, but the scars and marks of the hurt remain. These have to be acknowledged.

In the depths of the scandal of apartheid Archbishop Desmond Tutu insisted that good will overcome evil, that truth will not be suppressed by falsehood.

I recall him and his colleagues challenging the might of South African military with Bibles in their hands.

He used to say to the Apartheid Government: “You may have the guns. You may have all this power. But you have already lost. Come, join the winning side”.

But he never lifted a weapon.

Reflect on your life and all the situations in which you feel you are at your wits end, at a dead end, stuck, and not sure of which way to turn next.

The Gospel insists, do not despair or give in.

Always remain hopeful.

Resurrection proclaims that there is a way out of the impasse.

According to John’s Gospel, the disciples had been fishing and had nothing to show for all their efforts, they were ready to give up, but in the wisdom of Christ they were shown a way forward.

The ministry of reconciliation brings the confidence that new beginnings are possible, it is a ministry that never ends, never gives up and always keeps hope alive.

Reconciliation brings us to be new creation, and give new life (2 Corinthians 5:5-21).

These four moments of the Gospel encapsulate the distinctive mission and ministry expressed and exercised in the Name of Christ.

It is a ministry strengthened and sustained by the Holy Spirit of God. 

Concluding remarks on reconciliation

Reconciliation is rooted in the stories of faith, and the gift of faith communities is to place greater value on reconciliation, and to uphold and proclaim a vision of reconciliation in our world.

From beginning to its conclusion, the Bible records and reflects Gods continuing reconciling work in the history of a people on a journey, constantly desiring nothing less than a restoration and renewal of the relationship with God, within their own being and relationships, and ultimately the renewal of all creation.

There is a claim in the New Testament that this journey reaches a climax in the decisive revelation of God in Jesus Christ, following which God’s work of reconciliation moves to a new level towards renewing and building a “new heaven and a new earth” realising the fullest potential of all creation.

There is an inseparable link between reconciliation and the stories of creation, crucifixion and the consummation of all creation. 

God never gives up on the work of reconciliation and calls us to share in this work [2 Corinthians 5:18-19].

The ministry of reconciliation includes set-backs, frustrations and enormous costs, and sacrifices involved.

Reconciliation is built on repentance, forgiveness, the willingness to change, to restore and renew relationships, and to live with more grace and generosity without giving up.

Reconciliation is not simply a matter of achieving integration by assimilation and erosion of differences.

Reconciliation requires holding and healing each other through remembering, sharing stories of hurt, arriving at repentance, forgiveness, and a commitment to living with more grace and generosity. It embraces economic, ecumenical and environmental justice.

Within this breadth of reconciliation, we are all called to make a modest contribution and play our part, and to value the contribution others make however small.

We dare to hope for and dream of a different society, a decent society where all people can be safe, flourish and have equal opportunity, and enjoy the fullness of life; where different parties agree to be in an open and honest relationship in which they can share openly and honestly in what are undoubtedly difficult conversations.

A reconciled society will not be one without differences and disagreements but it will be one where division is not destructive because there is a shared commitment to the enhancement of life for all.

We will not give up on reconciliation.

The Dalai Lama said during a visit to Northern Ireland:

“Reconciliation. We have no alternative or option. Violence is suicide.”

The Gospel of Christ expresses confidence in God who is revealed in Christ’s birth, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection.

So live your life as “ambassadors” of this Gospel ministry of reconciliation, and encourage this lifestyle in all life and conflict at local and wider level. And you will help to build a better world.

Inderjit Bhogal

9 January 2021

Stories of Delight to honour

In Mark 1:11 we read the words of God to Jesus: “You are my beloved. I take great delight in you”.

These words are written just after Jesus’ crucifixion.

Jesus had friends who loved him. There were also those who detested him.

A bit like us all.

But in the midst of all this there is one constant fact. In God’s eyes Jesus always remained a delight.

The words of God to Jesus are also God’s words to you. Hear God saying these words to you:

“You are my beloved. I take great delight in you”.

Let these words be your life mantra, words you live by.

Every morning, when you wake up, and look in the mirror as you get ready, you could look in the mirror and say, “who are you?”

But say to yourself everyday even if no one else says this to you, “you are a delight, you are God’s beloved”.

God takes great delight in you.

We are living in difficult days, with now the second lockdown.

It would be easy to be very down hearted.

It is important to remain positive and to keep hope alive.

Here are three simple ways to do this:

  1. Everyday, count your blessings and be thankful. Give thanks especially for people who are a blessing and a great delight to you
  2. Live in the present and pay attention to now. Don’t be too focussed on the future. Focus on things that give you delight now, good company, good cuisine
  3. Meditate and pray. Do this by finding five to ten minutes each day to just listen to what God is saying to you. To pray is not to tell God what to do. To pray is to listen to what God is saying to you. Begin by listening to God saying to you, you are my beloved and I take great delight in you

As Chapel Community it is important to remember that this Chapel established in 1841 has been here for 180 years, and has a great history.

We can make this a special year by celebrating and taking delight in this amazing achievement, a witness kept alive, a candle kept lit, by small groups of people over the years.

It is a tremendous achievement, a great delight, we have much to give thanks for.

Along with the story of Mary Anne Rawson, there are subsequent stories of successive small bands of people who have sustained the Chapel and the House for almost 200 years. They have played an important role in the neighbourhood.

They have held the story of Mary Anne Rawson and the effect of her vision in the neighbourhood. In telling the story of Mary Anne Rawson, it is important also to gather, and honour and tell the stories of many others who have been part of the history. Their stories are also of great value. They are part of a small Christian community that has always been in the centre of the Chapel and the House.

They, and we, have been held together by the story of Jesus, shared in regular worship. The heart of worship has been reading the Bible, telling and singing the story of Jesus, lighting a candle of prayer, and sharing holy communion. Lighting a candle is a central part of worship. 

In addition to worship, this band of people has held and facilitated countless expressions of community activities including toddler groups, youth groups, craft groups, coffee mornings, open days, walks, and parties. They have maintained a beautiful garden. They have helped to maintain the buildings.

Around thirty years ago, the Chapel was at the heart of an increasingly neglected and deteriorating housing estate and neighbourhood. The Chapel itself was in a poor condition. Some internal refurbishment was carried out, but the external structure was in serious need of attention. Like the neighbouring estate, the Chapel was in a broken condition.

It would have been easy to allow the Chapel to decay and be demolished. This was what some members of the Chapel community said to me constantly.

However, fifteen years ago, with support from English Heritage, and Historical Churches Preservation Trust, grants totalling £260,000 ensured a completely new roof, external wall pointing, new windows throughout, internal replastering and painting, new toilets and kitchen, and a new heating system. Two thirds of the floor in the Chapel required replacement.

Fifteen years on the Chapel is still here, but now requires further repairs and repainting. It is important to keep this building of historic and architectural importance in good condition and protected. 

We can learn from our history, from excellence, and do what we do better, not least in honour of those who have gone before us, and as part of our Christian witness here.

We recognise the value of the Chapel. By staying here, the Chapel community have kept the vision and story alive here.

This legacy of the Chapel and the worshipping community here is an integral part of our vision. We are a small community working hard to maintain witness and worship, and manage the property.

We will ensure we mark the legacy and memory and stories of what the Chapel community has done, and celebrate Mary Anne Rawson, and all our stories, past and present.

The Chapel community is committed to building wider links with the neighbouring community, and work as partners.

Added to this the vision for the Chapel House may attract new people who may also want to engage in activities in the Chapel, and help to keep the candle lit for many years ahead.

Inderjit Bhogal

10 January 2020


Reading: John 1:1-9

I have been thinking about the new mantra: “light at the end of the tunnel” along with Christmas and New Year hopes. There is promising news of vaccines that may help to prevent covid infections. We all welcome this good news and hope they will be effective and available to everyone. We give thanks for all those who work so hard to keep us all safe.

We are mindful of all those who are not well and need support, and those who have died.

2020 has been a difficult year for us all. Many, including people very close to me, have had very painful experiences in matters of illness and of grief.

Then there are all the politics around Brexit.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

The Christmas message insists “the light shines IN the darkness” (John 1:5). These words express the vision and hope of a small band of Jesus’ earliest followers. They were in a kind of lockdown (John 20:19). They were few, lived in fear, and wondered what the future held.

The Christmas story calls us to re-examine the way we speak of darkness. It insists that the greatest illuminations are found in situations that may be described in terms of darkness, and where darkness is profound.

Here we discern the light that enlightens everyone and everything, and learn that darkness and light are both alike in God (Psalm 139:12). 

We are living in extraordinary times of illumination in the midst of our personal situations, local realities and global events. The key lesson being learned is that decisions are more likely to be correct if you start by focussing on, and asking, where the hurt is deep, and who is the most vulnerable?

Not Caesar on a throne, armed to the teeth, but the helpless baby in the manger, soon a child refugee in Egypt and in danger, reveals the path to salvation.

Look here for the light that shines in the darkness, and enlightens everyone.

We are called to point to this light, wherever we are.

A Prayer:

Holy God,

You are with us at all times and in all places,

even when we cry with Jesus and the Psalmist, and others,

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.

To you are known all our hurts and all our hopes.

To you our hearts are open, and all our desires are known.

Uphold us in our brokenness by your grace and love.

Illuminate us, our place and our pathway, in the light and in the dark.

Strengthen us that we may reflect your light,

And reveal your presence and love.


Inderjit Bhogal

Christmas 2020/ New Year 2021

Sanctuary For All – Study Guide for Churches and Individuals

Revision Date: January 2021

The latest version of Sanctuary for All is now available here. I have updated some figures and information. There is also more detailed reflections on being a Church of Sanctuary in Appendix 3. This resource is also available on the Churches Together in Britain & Ireland website. You are encouraged to mark the annual Sanctuary Sunday which is the Sunday at the end of Refugee Week.

This is a resource that can be used by Churches, small groups or individuals to reflect on the theme of Welcome, Hospitality and Sanctuary.

It can also be used as material for house groups or study groups during Lent or Advent.

Click the link below to access, view and download the document:

Hospitality and Sanctuary for All 2020 – CTBI Version