12 June 2015 You are here:

The creed and the colour and the name does matter

The creed and the colour and the name does matter…

“We’re full!”  This is one of the uncompromisingly forthright responses in social media to the presentation the Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin made as she appealed to the world, the EU and the UK to do something more about the plight of those risking everything to cross the Mediterranean Sea for a better life in Europe. 

Last night, Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, who is chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons appeared on Andrew Neil’s “This Week” show and made the basic premise that every nation should take responsibility for:

A) helping out with the crisis being played out in the Mediterranean

B) working towards long-term solutions for the conditions - war, poverty, exploitation - that force people to take the risks they do, and which result in so many deaths. 

She said:  "We’ve been standing by and watching for too long. These are human beings, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, infants, pregnant women, all desperately trying to escape war and hunger."

Every single comment made in response to her presentation being posted on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/bbcthisweek) was negative… many were disdainful and dismissive.  Given the strong sentiments articulated in those comments I know that my viewpoint as expressed in this blog will be controversial and provocative.

You see, I endorse Rose’s sentiments.  Whereas I understand the nub of the argument against helping out – viz. that we don’t have enough space or resources to meet what seems to be an unending problem…  or, in the words of one of the respondents, “we’re full” – I believe that the practical challenges should not prevent Europe doing something.  Many Europeans seem to have conveniently forgotten that economic emigration caused the scourge of colonialism of the 17th - 20th centuries which plagued Africa, Asia and South America for centuries.  Europeans left their home countries more frequently in search of a better future than to escape a difficult present.  In essence, the majority were economic emigrants who sought their fortune in what was, to the colonizing nations of Europe, land that was up for grabs. 

So, are there any differences between what Europeans did then, to what these migrants are doing today?  I’d like to highlight two differences:

1) The boot is on the other boot – Europe has become the recipient as opposed to being the sender of economic migrants

2) Today’s migrants are, at least, not annexing the land of Europeans, as indeed was the case when the journeys wended the other way, though they are accused of using up the resources and space.  As was succinctly expressed:  “We’re full!”!

Rose’s presentation came the night before the news broke of Australia's creative policies in keeping immigration figures down.  Allegedly, the people smugglers are being paid significant sums of money to return their human cargo to their embarkation points rather than help them into Australian territory.   Whereas Australia’s immigration and foreign ministers have denied making payments, the Prime Minister refused to deny it, and claimed that, at least they were stopping boats from coming in… something they would continue to do “by hook and by crook”.  The irony is, of course, that, a couple of centuries ago, or so, boats landed from Europe, unimpeded by the local population…

What would our Founder say about this?  Interestingly, Salvation Army history makes very clear what our position should be:   William and Bramwell Booth worked closely with the likes of Cecil John Rhodes (who usurped/cajoled/grabbed huge chunks of Southern Africa for Britain) to obtain such questionably acquired land for economic emigrants (the poor from London's East End!).  Accordingly, I believe that the principle he espoused so vigorously - moving the marginalized and impoverished to a place where the prospects of a better life are great - should be one that European Salvationists should espouse even though they are on the receiving end now.  (Perhaps that should read:  "... because they are on the receiving end now!")   As I stated at the outset, this is an extremely unpopular view to take in Fortress Europe, but, I am as unapologetic as the Founder was in his day, in holding it!

What would the Founder of the Church say?  I believe that Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:31ff.  are relevant to this challenge, and worth reflecting upon.  As I read those verses again, I am reminded of the song we used to sing around campfires in Cape Town:

When I needed a neighbour

Were you there, were you there?

When I needed a neighbour

Were you there?  

And the creed and the colour

And the name won’t matter

Were you there?  

I was hungry and thirsty

Were you there, were you there?

I was hungry and thirsty

Were you there?  

And the creed and the colour

And the name won’t matter

Were you there?  

I was cold, I was naked

Were you there, were you there?

I was cold, I was naked

Were you there?  

And the creed and the colour

And the name won’t matter

Were you there?  

When I needed a shelter

Were you there, were you there?

When I needed a shelter

Were you there?  

And the creed and the colour

And the name won’t matter

Were you there?  

When I needed a healer

Were you there, were you there?

When I needed a healer

Were you there?  

And the creed and the colour

And the name won’t matter

Were you there?

Wherever you travel

I’ll be there, I’ll be there.

Wherever you travel

I’ll be there.  

And the creed and the colour

And the name won’t matter

I’ll be there.  

Given the lethargy with which this crisis is being addressed, it would seem that the creed and the colour and the name does matter!

God help them!

God help us!