“Our job is to give people hope,” says the Rev Patrick Wright. He’s one of the chaplains at Heathrow’s Immigration Removal Centre. Here, roughly 1,000 men and a couple of dozen women, are awaiting news of when and if they will be deported from the UK.
The reasons could be many and various: overstaying a visa, having arrived in the UK illegally, having committed a crime, or simply, in the case of the people that we meet having made a series of mistakes.
“It definitely is a place where a lot of people feel hopeless,” he says. “We see lots of low-level depression here.”
“But,” he adds, “the Gospels bring hope.” And so it is that Patrick and his colleagues have given away at least 50 Bibles a year to detainees in a vast range of languages from Farsi to Tamil, Urdu to Nepalese. And, they keep their chapel stocked with a good supply of Bibles so that anyone can drop by and read them. We’re able to keep Patrick stocked thanks to your support.
Some of Patrick’s flock remain in detention, in a state of uncertainty, for as much as a year. In the end, three quarters will be deported. Patrick is cognisant of the perilous future awaiting some detainees.
“We’ve got people who have converted to Christianity in the UK. We have a couple of guys from Africa whose families are involved in witchcraft and want them to take over. Some are genuinely fearful,” he says.
“I have to give a genuinely biblical hope, which isn’t that life will be without pain or sorrow, but that we can see God’s purposes for us, even it means walking a difficult path and facing choices that we would rather not make.”