Thursday, 3 September 2015

"No Entry" Sign for Refugees needs Taking Down

I am saddened by the way that Britain is responding (or not responding) to the current refugee crisis.  I am also saddened by the approach of too many members of the Press and too many of those in Government.  For months there have been voices seeking to persuade us that those trying to enter Europe are migrants.  Words and phrases such as swarm or invasion have been bandied around and members of the public have been encouraged to regard people escaping dire circumstances as people on the make.

What part of our mind thinks that people risking overcrowded boasts that capsize with the bodies of young and old washed up on beaches, or airtight lorries crammed full of human beings is likely to be a ploy to exploit our Benefits system?  It almost defies belief that people try to advance this kind of argument.  Of course there are people that are poor and have a tough time in Britain, but as a society we are so well off and so safe compared to some of the countries where these refugees are coming from.

Enough is enough. David Cameron and others in Government are wrong to keep putting the barriers up.  Yes there are policies and principles to consider in the longer term, but right now it is a time for compassion and action.  What we are seeing unfolding before us is absolutely heartbreaking.  We have a responsibility in this world to care for the weak and oppressed; to stand up for the children; to protect the vulnerable.  Take down that big "No Entry" sign that has been put up for domestic convenience.  We are seen as a safe haven and an opportunity for a better life away from fear and persecution. Prime Minister you should be taking the lead in demonstrating compassion and a desire for justice.  In many ways we are reaping the harvest of problems we have caused in these countries and now we want to wash our hands of the problem.  What hypocrisy!  Step up to the mark.  Lead us in a different direction.  The language has to change from migrants to refugees and there needs to be brave action.

As a Christian I am deeply challenged because I see Jesus as a refugee.  When his family fled to Egypt in the face of a vicious slaughter of youngsters from King Herod's men to ensure there was no threat to his throne Jesus was most fortunate that he did not encounter the UK Border Agency during his escape.  The likelihood is that if he had he would have been turned back.

I follow Jesus the Refugee and in the worried, agony etched, tormented face of the refugees we see in the media (or maybe in real life) I see the face of Jesus and his family.  So I say that just as there was a country that welcomed Jesus as a refugee fleeing from horror, so we should welcome those who flee for their lives in fear of what is behind and in hope for what might be ahead.   But I also say that whether or not you are a Christian or a person of any faith, the right response as fellow human beings to those people desperate to save themselves and their children is a response of generous, welcoming hospitality.

Take down the "No Entry" sign!