01/10/15 From The Minster's Workstation
The Migrant Crisis has touched the hearts of many of us and when calm waters came to the Med this year we could not have imagined what would unfold. The stories of mass transit on vessels never intended to make such journeys carrying far too many people abounded. The news of multiple drownings appalled most of us (did you see the letter in the Herald). And yet still they came.
While this happened the governments of Europe seemed to have busied themselves with other things to do. Greece’s deficit problem seemed a good channel for everyone’s attention. And that was the story that keeps on giving. And no wonder Europe stayed out of the Migrant issue, they had form in leaving it to others.
In October 2014 the Italians brought an end to their very commendable Mare Nostrum mission. The Naval project was proactive in rescuing migrants at sea and worked on 27,000 square miles of open water. Mare Nostrum ended because it was costing seven million pounds a month for Italy and despite calls from Rome for Europe to support the mission they refused. Seven million is as nothing to what it’s costing now to service this crisis.
It seemed a while before the media looked deeper into why these people were making the journey. We knew about the boats and disasters, we heard of the traffickers and we heard about the tourist destinations that suddenly didn’t seem so inviting on Trip Advisor.
We all thought it was terrible (well most) and we sort of knew who was coming and then the news items started to make some connections for us. Conflict in Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan etc. had driven people to these desperate measures. Some of that conflict is not unconnected to our Nation’s actions in the past or lack of them. Yet, it was a point not given the greatest air time. A leadership contest soon had the spotlight elsewhere. The events in Hungary, Austria and Germany soon clawed it back; though some people were a little confused by why these migrants were not at Calais. Previously Calais had had top billing for a migrants ‘must do’list. However, the numbers going there represent 1% of all the migrants in Europe and it seems that people are wanting asylum elsewhere, yes really.
So as Europe runs to keep up with events the question for all of us is rather uncomfortable. “Am I my Brothers Keeper?”. The line comes from Genesis 4. “Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" And he said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?" God said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground.…” It all came about because of jealousy over an acceptable offering. Mrs Merkel doesn’t think much to the offerings of some in this crisis. Europe’s total population is 740 million. So far this year 200,000 migrants have come. It constitutes just 0.027% of the population of Europe.
Are we responsible for our brothers and sisters? The bible has plenty of examples of people who had to flee famine or find exile, numerous instructions for caring for aliens and more than one conversation about people being tested in the matter of caring for strangers. Matthew 25 ‘I was a stranger and you did not invite me in’ and Hebrews 13 ‘ Do not forget to entertain strangers as by doing so some have entertained angels’. Be we Christians or a secular state are we being tested? In Munich they clapped to welcome migrants the other week while in Sidmouth three people wrote to the Herald at the first hint that some of these families might come here. Some may feel the same – what does God expect in this complex matter from the Church and the State. What does he require of each of us.