LETTER FROM A MINISTER
The artist Banksy has an installation “Elephant in the room”. It makes visual that image of a problem that everyone is trying to ignore. I heard on the radio one day a story from Northern Ireland. This man said he had attended church throughout the thirty years of “the troubles” but never heard a sermon refer to it at all. I wondered if as a church leader I was avoiding difficult subjects too. This also made me think how did religious leaders deal with Jesus’ challenges to the society of his day. Just taking Jesus’ command to love your enemies is disturbing enough to work through into real life. This was especially true in the context of a land occupied by the Romans. I do not doubt the difficulties of living out faith then or in the darkest period of our recent history in Northern Ireland.
This morning another Windrush story emerged. A man who had arrived aged eight in Britain, worked for 37 years here and found himself detained twice and told he was to be deported. He furnished evidence of his working history but was told he could have faked this and more evidence was demanded. There has been a lot of evidence of a hostile environment rather than a truth establishing commitment emerging on matters of immigration.
This emerged a couple of weeks ago in my church when we were due a missionary speaker. The women concerned works as a lawyer in Mozambique, she is married to a British citizen and is conducting further studies through a British University yet has been refused a visitor's visa. She was going to visit supporting churches with her husband who is engaged in the same work, helping the poor access justice in Africa.
I am glad that apologies have been issued to the Windrush generation and compensation where appropriate is issued. Mistakes are made at all levels of society and the best thing is to deal with them when they emerge. Politicians and government have a difficult job to do and I do not envy the task they undertake on our behalf.
My concern is for the climate of opinion that encourages a fair and just and possible generous approach to those in most need in our world. I grew up in London with the children of refugees who had escaped the Holocaust. I am glad at that time there was sufficient welcome to embrace these folk.
My prayer is for more of this spirit now.
Newport Pagnell Baptist Church