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30 August 2015
posted by Canon Dakin on 03-09-2015

“Early morning explosions have become a daily occurrence... and abduction or death is an ever present danger. It is not easy to live in such a risky place. You can’t comfortably move from your home to your work. You expect to be killed at any moment either due to the air-raids or to the war in the streets.”

That is a description of life in Syria.  For Christians in Syria it is especially hard. They are caught in a war between different Muslim factions. They have no friends on either side.

For me the image of the week  was on the news last Sunday evening - families with little children running across fields to get over the border into Hungary  and then the scene on the platform at the railway station in Bucharest as they tried to move further into Western Europe.  These people had not risked the crossing by sea - they had taken the long route overland through the Balkans. A young woman was interviewed. She hoped to be allowed to study medicine. To remain at home there would have been no hope of achieving her ambition but would presumably have been to face death or worse. These people were genuine refugees who by international law had a right to asylum in a safe country. What is our attitude? The strong current of opinion expressed in the media would seem to be to keep them out and to label all who wish to come here as spivs out to take unfair advantage.  And since it takes a strong politician to go against popular opinion, official policy is extremely negative.

Newspapers are far from basing themselves on Christian principles; they lean towards what they perceive to be readers‘ self-interest. What about Christian themselves? They tend to keep their faith in their pockets to be unfolded for an hour on Sundays. Are we critical of newspaper opinion in the light of our faith?  What is our attitude to refugees? Did you pay attention to St Paul this morning? “Pure unspoilt religion in the eyes of God our Father is this: coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it.”  One is reminded immediately of Our Lord’s own criteria: When I was hungry did you feed me, when I was thirsty did you offer me a drink? It is so simple but absolutely critical. What is there that we can do? Very little. These refugees are not on our doorstep. They are lost in statistics. You must be aware of the 300,00o quoted as last year’s excess immigration.  Of those 300,000 only 4% were refugees. The majority were here on a student visa, the others had been attracted by our relatively buoyant economy. The Christian voice must not let those in genuine, desperate need be overlooked. We must counter the constant negative tone of the media. I am not talking politics and I am far from proposing a practical solution but I am asking you to adapt, yourselves, the prescription for a good sermon: Take the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. What we read in newspapers or view on the screen is not faith-based. We need to refract it through the prism of our faith.     

 

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