Am I alone in feeling as much sympathy with the refugees in Calais as I do for those stuck in Kentish traffic jams on their way to a well-earned holiday? Am I alone in thinking that people with the gumption to get themselves across the world from Afghanistan or Somalia even to get to Calais, have just the sort of drive and initiative that we need in this country to rekindle our entrepreneurial skills? Am I alone in admiring the way in which many of these people have overcome horrific emotional trauma and got on with life instead of going into therapy? Am I alone in thanking God that the illegal immigrants in my ancestry managed to cross the channel?
It is easy to believe, supported by many of the national papers, most of the TV news channels, and nearly all of our political leaders, that we have an entitlement that goes with the privilege of being born in this country, and that we have the duty to deny human rights, that we enjoy, to a small group of survivors of horror. It makes no sense to me that a few hundred (yes, they try many times, the media add the attempts together to make like there are thousands) of these suffering people should even try to get here, where they will be put into detention centres to be ordered about and sometimes abused by employees of the private companies which we employ to keep them from the land of the free.
As a UK citizen, I am free to visit 140 countries without a visa, as a citizen of Somalia, I would be restricted to two. Fair, or what?
We as a country don’t pull our weight on this problem. We deal with less than a quarter of the asylum applications made in Germany, and less than half those handled by France or Italy, yet we are encouraged to consider that we are in a fortress repelling invaders.
Where does love come into this? What attitude would be Jesus-Shaped? How could we feel easy with ourselves explaining our attitudes to Jesus, maybe just after the Sermon on the Mount? When Jesus was approached by the Canaanite woman for the healing of her daughter, he did not turn her away. The experience encouraged him to go further into foreign territory to meet other strangers, much to the dismay of hardened Jews.
Inevitably, religions give different advice to their followers: Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur urge Israeli settlers in Arab territory to “…even kill babies in their cribs, if there is a good chance they will grow up to be like their evil parents”. For my part, I stand in the shadow of the cross on this issue.
Politicians have the unenviable responsibility to deal with this human tragedy; surely we are all grateful that they have volunteered for these duties? They need to know that any Jesus-Shaped initiative on their part will win them the admiration of electors and not their wrath. Have we told them how we feel?