Viewpoint from Rt Rev Alan Winton 12/08/2016
+ Alan Thetford
The Rt Rev Alan Winton
Bishop of Thetford
also published in the Great Yarmouth Mercury
These last weeks have been a journalist’s dream. In the referendum we voted, by a small majority, for Britain to leave the European Union. This has already had dramatic repercussions politically and we now have a new Prime Minister and Cabinet
We will soon learn more about the full implications of this decision, welcomed by some and regretted by others
One deeply regrettable consequence, however, is the significant rise in hate-crimes and abuse directed at people who are, sometimes mistakenly, identified as migrants
Whatever our own views, we do have to respect the results of the referendum, but we should not tolerate the ignorance and hatred directed at those who have come to our country from other lands
The Bible is full of commands to show hospitality and particular care for the foreigner who lives and works in our midst. In fact, the identity of God’s people in the Old Testament is all about their experience of being migrants in Egypt, and later exiles in Babylon. Having known what it was like to be strangers in a foreign land, the people of God are instructed to show particular care and welcome to those who come to live among them
As a child, Jesus was forced to flee from persecution in his own land, and seek refuge abroad. He and his parents were dependent upon the hospitality and kindness of others, and that should encourage us to have a special care for those who come as refugees, seeking asylum, or even simply to make their home among us
Our government will need to work out in the coming months whether we wish to retain our current open borders within Europe, or begin to exercise greater control with all the consequences that would follow from that. In the meantime, there is no justification at all for hatred, threat and violence being directed at those who have come from other countries.
When Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, he deliberately took a foreigner to be the example of the kind of practical love to our neighbour that is required of all of us. It is not just tolerance we are called to show, but active practical love and welcome.
I was deeply moved by the pictures of Muslims in France going to worship alongside Catholics in the face of the recent murder of a priest. What gestures can we show to demonstrate the love and care we feel for those who have come to live among us?