Should we wash our hands or roll up our sleeves?

The thing about being a Christian is that it’s all about Jesus. That may sound rather obvious, but sometimes it seems that it’s easy not to make the connection. Jesus was of course once a refugee. Perhaps these days he might be called an economic migrant, it’s highly likely because many of the people referred to in this way are simply doing what Jesus parents were doing, fleeing from people who want to kill them.

In a much reported speech this week the Home Secretary stated that migration at current rates was making it impossible to be a coherent society. The church of England Newspaper of the 8th October records Mrs May’s own words that she continues to be a practicing Anglican. She will probably be aware of the Biblical text about Jesus parents fleeing to Egypt to protect the life of their new born Son. She is certainly aware of the influx of people seeking safety for their own children that we are facing due to the conflict in the Middle East. If she has not forgotten the Biblical narrative about Jesus parents fleeing into Egypt she is at best, lacking in the empathy and imagination to draw out some of it’s implications for today.

She may well feel that Christian values are being threatened by the influx of refugees, or as she prefers to call them, migrants. But it seems that in taking such a hard line, she is in fact throwing away the very values that flow from our Christian beliefs.

I am not entering into party politics here because even the head of the Institute of Directors said that she had used irresponsible and inflammatory language so people of every political allegiance have found it impossible to agree with the tone and content of Mrs Mays recent speech.

Can you imagine how our hospitals would be effected if we were to send home “economic migrants” we would very soon see that whatever statistics Mrs May may have quoted, (and they are at best hotly disputed), that without economic migrants our health service would collapse.

During the 1930’s this country refused to take in more than a very few Jewish people and so became indirectly complicit in an act of genocide that remains one of the most horrific tragedies of the modern era. Some have said that the tone of some politicians then was not unlike that of Mrs Mays recent speech.

The General Secretary of The Baptist Union of Great Britain took an unusual step recently in issuing a statement and has encouraged local churches to: 

  • explore afresh the Biblical perspectives within our Gospel tradition that inform our response to the refugee and stranger
  • respond through prayer both to the individual plight of the many thousands of people who continue to seek refuge, and for the political situations which both cause and offer resolution to this crisis
  • offer practical responses working as much as possible in partnership with other concerned citizens both from within our Christian community and beyond

contact their MPs to share concerns and inform future debates in Parliament

No one pretends that there are easy answers to the crisis that the whole of Europe is facing at the moment, or that we will be able to solve these problems simply by taking in refuges while ISIS continues to cause death and destruction in the middle east, but do nothing and simply wash our hands like Pilate can only mean that in the eyes of history we will be implicated as being indirectly complicit in an act of genocide.

If prominent professing Christians willfully ignore the insights of scripture that will certainly not help to build a coherent society. We need to return to our Christian roots, to heed the insights of our gospel tradition, to listen to what scriptures says about befriending the refugee and the stranger.

Mark