Saturday 13th May 2023 Hope for a society that welcomes the stranger
Reading Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
There are Home Office hotels in Brighton that are used to accommodate unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Recently, it was reported that 136 of these children had gone missing, with 76 still unaccounted for. These are the streets where extremely vulnerable children were abandoned – forgotten by those responsible. The idea of children who have been so neglected by our systems is heartbreaking. I hope they may know how precious they are to God – by whom they could never be forgotten.
Certain stories like this one may reach the headlines and tug on our heartstrings, but the plight of refugees is around us everyday. There have been years of neglect, hostility, fear-mongering and cruelty in our politics and asylum system. Deep-rooted systemic failures come together to create these situations where the most vulnerable people in our world are met with hostility and neglect.
The Joint Public Issues Team is working to empower Christians to target these systemic challenges. We believe we are called to advocate for policies and practices that protect the rights and dignity of the most vulnerable. This can require taking action in many different ways, but political engagement is a key one.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is a well known passage of scripture. I like to think about it in this context: it shows us that there is a time to simply be happy, to appreciate the sunshine and the beach with peace. There is also a time to lament for those lives which have been lost. to reflect on what went wrong. And finally, there is a time for action, to do everything we can to change the story.
Dear God, In a world where we know the suffering of the innocent and vulnerable, we turn to you for comfort and hope. Let your love and justice guide us as we look for solutions. Help us to be inspired to action as we seek to welcome the stranger and extend the hand of friendship and hospitality. We thank you for all those who are working tirelessly to support refugees. Bless them, Lord. Provide them with the resources, wisdom and courage that they need. Amen
Hannah Furse is a parliamentary intern with the Joint Public Issues Team