October 2015

February 16, 2016

Thoughts From The Cottage

Dear Friends

Not a day goes by without us hearing more stories about migrants and their journeys. Between me writing this and you reading it more stories will have been heard. It is an ever changing situation and a very challenging one. At our recent CTB45 Ministers meeting we touched on the issue briefly and agreed that it would be for the churches and their ministers to speak out and act on the issue in order to counter some of the rhetoric we find in the media, rhetoric which at times crosses the boundary into xenophobia and is often not based in reality.

The reality is that, whatever the causes, there is an enormous migration of people across on the world that is putting an immense strain on countries they travel through and on those prepared to welcome them as well as those trying to keep them out. I recently heard a story of a migrant recently arrived in Birmingham swimming in the sea with his children at Brean and continually calling out freedom, freedom, freedom. He was free from fear, violence and oppression and is free to enjoy life in all its fullness. There is no price that can be put on these things.

We rejoice in our freedom and continually give thanks for those who fought to make it possible. Jesus told us to ‘love our neighbour as we love ourselves’ and went to define our neighbour as all people. We would all agree that we have a responsibility to help those in need but just how do we do it? Whatever we do will be costly but the cost of doing nothing could well be much more. We have to treat the issue from both ends. We have to find ways of resolving conflict and ending oppression across the world without resulting to the violence of warfare. At the same time we need to have a genuine, welcoming, humanitarian response to those who have fled their homes.

We were horrified by the violence on the Hungarian border but we need to understand it. Desperate migrants throwing stones and storming fences, frightened border guards trying to quell the opposition in the only way they have been taught to, with tear gas and water cannon. Frightened, angry people often resort to violence. There were the images of the trail of litter and waste left by migrants through Serbia and Hungary. Should we be surprised? They are travelling on foot for long distances. People are giving them water, food and clothes which is very commendable but there are no refuse collection trucks and mobile toilets following them. Where is the rubbish supposed to go? I’ve seen worse in our cities in the early hours of the morning. Migrants are arriving in some of Europe’s poorest countries and trying to move on to wealthier ones that are better able to cope. Of course there will be chaotic scenes.

Our real test will be when migrants settle in our communities. How will we receive them? Many are Christian and will expect a welcome in our churches. Will they get it? Given the chance they will help grow and revitalise our churches as they tell their story. What about schools, housing, employment? How will they be treated? The Jewish Passover Meal, from which our Communion comes starts off ‘My father was a wandering Aramean’. We are all migrants, maybe only from Yorkshire, Scotland, Lancashire, Kent etc but we are all migrants in Rubery and our society is better for it. We remember the warmth of the welcome we received when we arrived