Page last updated at 13:35 GMT, Friday, 20 November 2009

Refugee minister sent hate mail

Bolton skyline
A weekly drop-in session for asylum seekers is held at the hall in Bolton

A Methodist minister has been sent hate mail because he has allowed his church in Greater Manchester to be used by a group helping refugees.

Reverend Phil Mason, from The Victoria Hall in Bolton, said he was concerned for his family after receiving the notes in the last few months.

But despite their abusive nature, he said he had forgiven the authors.

The hall supports the Befriending Refugees and Asylum Seekers group, which runs a weekly drop-in session.

'Distorted perception'

"It's very hard when you open a letter and you see some of the aggressive language that's put in there," Mr Mason told BBC Radio Manchester.

"Your stomach turns and your immediate thought is concern about the safety of the family and yourself.

"But then you begin to see beyond the language and just realise that people's perceptions of asylum seekers and refugees are very distorted."

Mr Mason has not reported the incidents to Greater Manchester Police, despite the offensive content of the letters.

People who are threatening him should be prosecuted
Nigel Rose, Refugee Action

"There was things in there like 'I would like to give you a one way ticket to Baghdad' and 'you go with all the rest of the scum that you've been supporting - and take the rest of your family there'.

"Unfortunately most of the letters that come are anonymous so you can't respond to them," he added.

"I do believe that when people actually understand people's stories, see people for who they are as fellow human beings - who just want dignity and respect - then it's a very different perspective from the spongers and scroungers and that kind of language that is often bandied about these days."

Nigel Rose, of the Refugee Action campaign group, believes that Mr Mason should contact the authorities.

"People who are threatening him should be prosecuted," said Mr Rose.

"Why are we in this situation where people think that it's wrong to have asylum seekers in the UK?"

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