The gates are open

Yesterday, the above cartoon was published in Britain’s voice of reason and compassion*, the Daily Mail. (*sarcasm overload)

It upset many, many people, something I guess they’d actually be quite happy about as it means more publicity for their brand of hate. Publicity which, yes, I am granting them more of now (albeit only to the 70-100 readers each post gets on average on this blog. So not much publicity, really). For me, the reasons I got upset were fourfold.

Firstly, it meant I was angry at the Daily Mail yet again, despite trying so hard to just ignore them.

Secondly, the use of the sudden death of someone, Cilla Black, to make an attempt at humour based on a humanitarian crisis. It lacks class and humanity on many levels.

Thirdly, “illegals”. So many of the people at Calais at the moment are running scared from war, extreme poverty and persecution. They are human beings who want a chance of a better life which they don’t have, yet we do, due to an accident of birth. Yet the Mail decides to go a step further than the constant description of these refugees, these people, by most of the media as “migrants”, and decides to completely dehumanise these people by labelling them “illegals”. As if they have no right to exist, no right to compassion, no rights at all. It disgusts me!

Fourthly, though, was the heavenly imagery used in the cartoon. Hundreds of people locked out of God’s Kingdom whilst riot police try to keep back an influx of these “illegals”, whilst judging one person as worthy due to her elevated social status. It’s an image which so misrepresents God’s desire to accept us all that it was this which made my blood boil the most. 

In the letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote this,

“Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (‭‭Galatians‬ ‭3:23-29‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬)

Today, Paul may well have said that there is also no celebrity nor illegal. All are welcome and justified by their faith in Christ alone, not by their place of birth or bloodline. There is no need to climb over the fence, as some are doing in the background; rather, if we knock, the door will be opened for us.

That is what is truly wrong. The idea of God, the one who made the heavens and the Earth, the one who breathes life into us, the one who came down to Earth in order to die and save us from ourselves, the one who invites every one of us into a relationship with him, would lock the gates on those most vulnerable. Christ spoke more about helping the poor, sick and marginalised than anything else, except for the Father’s Kingdom. He did this to make the exact point Paul did to the Galatians; we are all equal in God’s sight and all equally welcome into His courts through Jesus. 

There is no need for us to queue or clamber over gates. There will be no policing, no truncheons, no hatred, no fear, no desperation. There are no “illegals” or legals. Instead, as Matt Redman put it in his song “Holy Moment”,

“We will run run run

Through your gates, o God

With a shout of love!

With a shout of love!”

You’re all my neighbour

Ethiopia – A country struck by a devastating famine 30 years ago which, despite decent growth recently, still experiences crippling poverty and very little equality for girls and women.

Nigeria – A country where 100 million people live on less than $1.25 per day

Bangladesh – A country with little political stability. 1 in 19 children die by the age of 5 and 120,000 new born children die every year.

Pakistan – A country whose instability is exacerbated by extreme poverty. 1 in 11 children die before they reach 5, 14,000 mothers die in childbirth and 1 in 10 of the World’s out of school children live here.

Democratic Republic of Congo – A country trying to recover from a devastating civil war, where banditry is still rife.

These are the five countries who the UK gives the most out of our overseas aid budget, not to mention those affected by natural disasters in the Philippines and Haiti (millions of people in both) and the awful conflict in Syria, including 20,000 refugee children in Lebanon given schoolboys recently.

These are the people who many in our country, most notably those signing the Daily Mail’s petition, feel we should stop, or at least reduce, giving aid to in favour of the victims of the floods in the south of England.

Now, I have to say first off that my heart goes out to those affected. It must be awful beyond my comprehension and they need as much help as we can give as quickly as we can give it. Here’s the thing, though. The UK has the money, resources, manpower and infrastructure to get over this fairly quickly. We don’t need the Disasters Emergency Committee to put out a global appeal because we are one of the World’s richest countries.

Yes, people will be without a home, possessions or even basic sanitation for a while. It’s horrible for them and I pray that it is sorted for them quickly. Imagine, though, never having a home, possessions or basic sanitation. Ever. This is reality for millions of men, women and children throughout the World. Surely as one of the richest countries, one who has made its fortune off the back of less fortunate nations, by plundering the World’s resources and talent, is is our moral obligation to help those abroad as well as at home?

To decide that people in far off lands are less deserving because of an accident of birth, because they don’t fit the “hard working families” myth, because of the selfish notion that charity begins at home, totally destroys any notion that we hold that the UK is a Christian country.

Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. At the moment we seem to want to fulfil the role of the Pharisee or the Levite, passing on the other side of the road and ignoring someone in need because our priorities lie elsewhere. Where are the good Samaritans? Those willing to speak out and say that we can and should help all those in need, regardless of race, religion, nationality or geographical location?

We can’t allow ourselves to become a nation whose idea of fairness is that you get out what you put in. Some have little or nothing to put in, so we must do what we can to help them. We don’t know for sure that, one day, we won’t be the ones with nothing. Will we then have the idea that we are undeserving, or will we want, or even demand the help we need?

Let’s stop the culture of self and start a culture of selflessness and equality in the eyes of the God who made us all in His image. Let’s show equal compassion to all in need, rather than letting people fend for themselves if they don’t live within our set of artificially constructed boundaries. Let us love our neighbour. All of them.