If Mary and Joseph were arriving in the UK seeking asylum this Christmas, what reception would they receive?
The short film, ‘A Very British Nativity’ imagines the scenario and shows Mary and Joseph struggling to get by in temporary accommodation, while the three wise men are arrested by police before they are able to deliver their gifts.
The video is part of a churches campaign to challenge hostile attitudes towards asylum seekers, and has been released as the latest UK Government figures show Scotland had 3,245 asylum seekers who were receiving accommodation and/or financial support of less than £6 per day in September.
“We fear there is a ‘war against sanctuary’ which the UK Government is expressing through eroding legal rights for asylum seekers and threatening to penalise the children of people without appropriate documentation to discourage migration.”
David Bradwell, Refugee Co-ordinator for Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees, praised Scottish communities for their “phenomenal welcome to refugees and asylum seekers” with churches often playing a crucial role in the harsh circumstances in which they find themselves.
He added: “This film hopefully remind those of us lucky enough to live in peace that there are others in the UK less fortunate this Christmas, and also to express a wish that there can be some reform and improvements to how the state treats asylum seekers in the New Year.”
The film was produced by a coalition of four Church denominations in the UK: the Church of Scotland; the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church.
Martha (8) attends a Methodist Church and she played Mary in the film. She said:
“Mary must have felt tired because she did so much walking with her suitcase and her baby. She would have been sad because she couldn’t find a home and worried about her baby. I think people should watch this film. We all need to help people who have left their home because something bad has happened.”
Film director Grace Pengelly said: “Our Churches are very concerned about the degrading treatment and challenges faced by asylum seekers in the UK.
“It is sometimes all too easy to forget that many seeking asylum have already experienced a great deal of trauma. Rather than providing the standard of care that we would wish for ourselves, many aspects of the UK’s asylum system appear to add to the suffering already endured by those seeking refuge.
“Our hope is that in seeing this film people will be more aware of how hard this Christmas will be for some of the poorest members of our society.”
‘A Very British Nativity’ will feature on the SCPO homepage for the whole of December 2016.