Happy Easter! I wake this sunny, Easter Sunday morning to a sermon from the Prime Minister. It’s here. You may not be able to get to the end, so here is a summary in quotes courtesy of the Telegraph.
The Prime Minister described Easter as “a moment to reflect and an important time for Christians and others to gather together with families and friends”.
She said: “I think of those values that we share – values that I learnt in my own childhood, growing up in a vicarage. Values of compassion, community, citizenship. The sense of obligation we have to one another.
“These are values we all hold in common – and values that are visibly lived out every day by Christians – as well as by people of other faiths or none.”
And who could argue with that? Well as it happens I live in a vicarage. And I too value compassion, community and citizenship. I have to admit I’m a bit shaky on what we mean by ‘citizenship’, but it sounds like a good thing. I mean, I’m certainly not against citizenship.
And yet from the perspective of someone working with refugees, the sense of cognitive dissonance is almost overwhelming.
Where to start?
We could talk about people refused asylum in the UK despite real fears of persecution on the basis of their religious faith, Christian and otherwise.
Or we could begin with a stated policy of a ‘hostile environment’ for irregular migrants, which spills over, inevitably, into hostility towards all migrants. No doubt it’s a compassionate hostility; community building hostility; Christian hostility.
Or the refusal to admit unaccompanied children formerly from Calais; children with families here in the UK who might welcome the chance to “gather with family and friends”.
Or the community fostered by indefinite detention without trial; months or even years in immigration removal centres for people who cannot and should not be removed.
But instead, let’s focus on destitution. Deliberately making other human beings homeless and starving then in the hope that their unhappiness and despair will become so extreme that it will overcome the fear of imprisonment, torture or death that awaits back ‘home’. I sure we can all agree that is just the sort of thing Jesus had in mind when he said ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. Unless they’re migrants’. I’m shaky on the exact quote but I’m sure it was along those lines.