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Strange Boat

| Simon Bale | Vicar's Blog
ATTENTION: this item expresses some of the vicar’s opinions concerning humanitarian acts, asylum and law making. If you are triggered by such things or would prefer not to read what the vicar has to say please do move along. I will not be offended. Truly. As always, I am very happy to discuss my opinions.

I said last week that I consider myself a fortunate man. I reiterate this week: I am a fortunate man. How so? First, I was born male. Given the continuing misogyny prevalent in the world I cannot imagine how it feels to be persecuted or oppressed because of my sex. It just doesn’t happen to me. Second, I was born white. Likewise, there is still such racial bigotry in our culture that I can only barely grasp how it is to be judged on the basis of how I look. Third, I am middle aged (and a bit) and so nobody considers me a threat. I’m a fairly decent bloke according to the mores of our culture and society. Fourth, I was born into a stable and thriving nation. I still live in it. No matter how much I might bemoan so much of our present economic state, the UK has all the means to thrive. I am blessed. I am fortunate.

How different it is for some.

I could have been born into a war-torn suppressive nation where sharing my opinions as I am doing now might lead to my execution at the hands of the state or the imprisonment of my family. I wouldn’t want to live like that. I’d want to be out of that kind of a place.

“We're sailing on a strange boat
Heading for a strange shore
We're sailing on a strange boat
Heading for a strange shore
Carrying the strangest cargo
That was ever hauled aboard”
(The Waterboys, 1988)

I might have grown up in South Sudan, let’s say. A place where oppression is normalised and where people routinely go missing. I might decide to get out of there and, since I speak English, I might try to reach sanctuary in the UK. But I wouldn’t be allowed in by just showing up. There is no safe passage for me. What would I do?

My understanding of Christianity is that we need to care for the oppressed, set the captive free, feed those who hunger and reveal the love of God in the world to all those who seek it (check out Luke 4:18). That is an act of love and faith. Instead, we are in danger of doing exactly the opposite.

As a nation—as Christians, as people of any faith I know of and none—we need to seek the health and safety of all those who run from horror and violence. We can check their validity as asylum seekers once they arrive on these beautiful shores. If someone is not in such need, then we deal with it then. When we criminalise those in desperate need we dehumanise and then we are on a very slippery slope. That is unfortunate.