shame

houses-of-parliament-london-1-1515543Last night I watched ‘democracy’ in action. There was a debate in the House of Commons on the Immigration Bill and an amendment proposed by Lord Dubs that would have allowed 3000 unaccompanied children who are already in Europe to be accepted into this country. These are children who are in refugee camps across Europe and who are at risk of all sorts of exploitation, abuse and being trafficked.

The debate was impassioned, moving and (on the whole) well-informed. Sadly the House of Commons chamber wasn’t full. But then the Speaker of the House of Commons announced that the debate had run its time and it was time for ‘Division’ – when MPs vote on measures.

Suddenly, from nowhere, you could see MPs rushing through the chamber to the Division Lobbies in order to vote. MPs who were not in the Chamber to hear the arguments, the moving statements and sense the mood of the Chamber. They were coming in because they had been told which way to vote, or had already made up their minds, and so they trooped through the lobbies almost as robots and the amendment was not accepted.

294 votes to 276.

If just 10 of the MPs who voted against the amendment had changed their mind and voted in favour of it the amendment would have carried and 3000 children would now have a hope and a future.

I was deeply saddened and ashamed that our country had turned its back on these children.

Arguments against the amendment seem to be based on the ‘slippery slope’ theory – that if we let in 3000 now it will just encourage more. But that’s just daft. If my child ran and fell over, hurting their leg, I would not leave them there saying, “If I help you now it will encourage you to run again and I’ll only have to help you some more if you fall over again.”

Where’s the compassion?

Where was my MP? Mark Francois MP did not vote. He may have deliberately abstained – better than voting for – but he did not participate (this is what I wrote to him about most recently). He may have agreed with someone who was going to vote the opposite way to him that both of them would refrain from voting (it’s common practice in the Commons) – but he did not participate.

Shame.

There was one ray of hope. Will Quince, Conservative MP for my old home constituency of Colchester, sat through the whole debate (I saw him) and then, having heard what was said, changed his mind and voted against the Government. Well done!

I hope that the amendment will be coming back in a slightly different form and will be approved next time – and next time it would be great if all MPs were there to hear the debate.

How many of us have fixed views about issues and won’t change their mind, or don’t want to change their mind? How many of us only read newspapers with which we will agree? How many of us will only read books with which we will agree?

The Bible says that ‘iron sharpens iron’ – you need to be honed by interaction with those with whom you disagree.

I wonder too how many people have a fixed view about God – his existence, his opinion of them, his thoughts, and are not willing to consider any other possibilities?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

pome for national potery day

Minolta DSC

Apparently today is National Poetry Day.

In honour of this I shall attempt a short (free verse) ode but also refer you to the pomes section of this blog if you are a glutton for poetic punishment. You can find them if you scroll down ye menu on the right hand side of the page*.

– o 0 o –

“Passion”: what happens when you give up on charged particles.
“Compassion”: having the hots for a website (.com) about giving up on charged particles.
“Compassionate” – having consumed a website (.com) about charged particles for which you had the hots.

This definition of ‘compassionate’ is brought to you by the homeless, disenfranchised, broken, vulnerable, ignored, and voiceless.

– o 0 o –

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*It is the right hand side if you are looking out from inside your screen!

Botox

there's nothing happening inside the red line
when you try to raise your eyebrows after Botox!

A few years ago I had a series of Botox injections in my forehead. It was not for cosmetic purposes, but was to try to alleviate the pain I was experiencing from a chronic migraine headache. Sadly it did not work, but it made a significant difference to the lines on my forehead (they disappeared) and meant I could not raise my eyebrows or frown until the effects wore off (after a few weeks).

It seems to me that some Botox has been applied to some more headlines this week.

The headline yesterday was that Britain is to take 20,000 refugees.

Yippee.

But the Botox of spin was injected to the refugee crisis so that eyebrows were not raised and frowns could not be made. The headline did not show that this was spread over the next five years, and that equates to 76 per week. And it neglected to mention that by the end of August 2014, the UN estimated 6.5 million people had been displaced in Syria, while more than 3 million refugees had fled to countries such as Lebanon (1.14 million), Jordan (608,000) and Turkey (815,000). That was last year! And that’s just Syria.

Ah.

The UK will accept up to 20,000 people from camps surrounding Syria over the next five years, with priority given to vulnerable children.

Yippee.

But that’s up to 20,000. And the need is urgent now, these people can’t wait five years!

Ah.

Priority is to be given to vulnerable children.

Yippee.

But, and here’s perhaps the place where the Botox of spin has really frozen the truth, they will only have the right to stay for five years and Lord Ashdown says that when these vulnerable and displaced children reach the age of 18 the Government says they will be deported!

Really?! That surely can’t be true can it? So far I have not heard anyone from the Government denying it…

This is described as humanitarian aid – it’s a compassionate response to a global crisis. And surely it’s better than nothing, isn’t it? We can’t help everyone. We have a duty to protect the most vulnerable. We want to stop the flow of people across Europe at source by taking people from the refugee camps. We want to stop the people traffickers who are profiting from these vulnerable people and putting their lives at risk.

I understand those points of view, but I want to draw a couple of contrasts between that approach and a couple of others:

Contrast that attitude with the people of Munich applauding and cheering as the weary refugees arrived there at the weekend.

The British announcement yesterday may be better than nothing, but in my view it’s not much better. The Botox of spin has been applied so that bad headlines can be erased, eyebrows won’t be raised and frowns will disappear. We can pat ourselves on the back for making a difference.

But Jesus had a different view of things (Matthew 25, slightly altered):

35 “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in [a refugee camp] and you came to visit me.”

37 ‘Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you ill or in [a refugee camp] and go to visit you?”

40 ‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

There’s no time limit or numerical limit there…

Be blessed, be a blessing

blessed by a bunny

>what do I do?This morning I was taking two Primary School assemblies with my trusty side-kick. We were asked to talk about compassion so Stew the Rabbit (left) and I told a version of the Good Samaritan where Stew responded graciously and compassionately when he came across Bonnie the Bunny (who had bullied him by calling him names, pushing him in puddles and taking his carrots (brilliantly loud gasp of horror from the children at the taking of carrots – they know how much Stew loves carrots!)) after she had fallen off her bike and hurt herself. Her friends had left her and her sister couldn’t cope with the sight of blood so it was left to Stew the Rabbit to save the day.

I was tempted to twist the story further than Jesus did by having Stew ignore her too, or even stand there laughing. I might have done that if it was a church setting, but as I reckoned most of the children would not know the story I kept it conventionally unconventional and Stew wrapped a handkerchief around her leg, helped her up and pushed her bike home while she hopped beside him.

At the start I asked the children to think whether what Stew did was good. At the end I asked them, and was surprised that in the Assembly for the older children some of them said, “No!” It seems that they felt that Stew should not have been kind, gracious, compassionate and forgiving but should have taken his revenge.

Now the story really came alive!

At the start of the second Assembly the teacher leading it introduced how they were finishing their current theme that week. I imagined she would say ‘compassion’ but it turned out that the theme was ‘courage’!

So I quickly adapted the story and emphasised that Stew was frightened of Bonnie the Bunny (and presumably her sidekick Clyde) and how it had taken real courage for him to stop and help her.

And then it struck me. The story of the Good Samaritan is about loving your neighbour, but it is also about courage. It is about having the courage to do what you know is right in the face of danger (the thieves could have been hiding, it could have been a trap); it is about having the courage to overcome prejudice and fear with love and compassion; it is about having the courage to set aside your priorities and risk being out of pocket or having to change your schedule to help those in need.

So Stew the Rabbit taught me a lot today as well.

May God give us all the courage to do what he wants even if we are afraid of the consequences. May God give us all the courage to see our own prejudices and fears and act despite them rather than because of them. May God give us all the courage to prioritise the needs of others rather than ourselves.

Be blessed, be a blessing.