Regular churchgoers are less likely to be hostile to immigration than people who call themselves Christians but do not attend church very often. This is a finding from new research conducted by the University of Bristol on behalf of the BBC.

Siobhan McAndrew, a sociologist at the University of Bristol, is uncertain why regular churchgoers are more open and tolerant toward immigrants.

“Maybe they meet more immigrants at church. Maybe it’s because they perceive they are judged more closely by a deity. It could be they get involved in civic and voluntary work that brings them in closer contact with diverse groups that changes their attitudes.”

The research shows that Christians who do not attend church are more hostile to immigrants and asylum-seekers than regular worshipers. People who identify as Anglican but do not attend church regularly are more hostile. McAndrew suggests this could be because they see church linked with “a Christian nationalist identity.”

The Rt. Rev. Guli Francis Dehqani, Bishop of Loughborough, came with her family as refugees from Iran where her father was the Anglican Bishop. The Church of England “did not have a great history … on having welcomed immigrants from way back in the 1950s and ’60s, and we still have a long way to go,” she said.

“At the core of the Christian message is that there is no distinction. We are children of God, we are all loved, we are all equal.”

John Martin

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