The Foreigner in your midst

I don’t often write to politicians – but I did the other week! In fact, I wrote to a lot of them, all the party leaders, the Conservative Leadership candidates and my local MP. What moved me to do this? It was the suggestion from some quarters that EU citizens living and settled in the UK might have to wait until we had negotiated a settlement with the EU about the rights of Brits living in Europe before having their own rights to remain, work, move freely and raise their families here guaranteed.Now, just to clear a couple of things up right away.

  1. So far, I have refrained from taking a party political position on faithroots and I don’t intend to start now
  2. As mentioned before, favouring immigration controls and wanting to leave the EU does not make you a racist.

However, I felt that there was something that went beyond politics. The effect on a lot of people who moved here, live here and work here legally as been considerable uncertainty. We’ve seen how this uncertainty makes people vulnerable to hate crime and I fear at risk of greater exploitation too.

The Bible tells God’s people to “show love to foreigners”[1] For the people of Israel, this concern was meant to arise out of their own shared experience as exiles in Egypt. There they had been oppressed and treated cruelly. They were not meant to repeat that example. Instead those who lived among them were to be treated well, with dignity and respect. Stronger than that they were t be loved.

So, in the New Testament, when Jesus is asked “Who is my neighbour” he tells the story of a foreigner -someone despised and rejected but that person ironically turns out to be the one who shows love.

Christians are described by Paul in Ephesians 2 as those who were spiritual foreigners and strangers to God’s love and grace. That should motivate our treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers. That’s why I was moved to write -because there are people in our city who I’m called to care about, vulnerable people who often are denied a voice.

Whatever your opinion on immigration controls, Christians should love and welcome those people who are here.  There must be no place for racism in the church. But it is more than the absence of negative hostility. We are called to love. That means caring practically. That might be through running ESOL classes, acting as advocates, providing advice and support. It will mean giving time to people, welcoming them into our homes, sharing meals, learning about and enjoying their food, culture, language, music etc. It will mean sharing the gospel and removing any barriers to their inclusion and involvement in our church as they respond to the Gospel.

How are we doing?

  1. We are aware that there has been an increase in reported hate crimes over the past month. At our Community Café, we have a number of leaflets about how to report hate crimes including if you prefer through a third party agency rather than directly to the police.

[1] Deuteronomy 10:19 NLT

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