The other day we watched a film about a Jew, living in America, who had escaped Austria when the Nazis took over. Before she left Austria, the Nazis stole all the family possessions, including a famous work of art worth millions of dollars. Sixty years later the painting was displayed in an art gallery in Vienna and the film describes her, eventually successful, efforts to restore the painting to its rightful owner.
In a sub-plot there are flashbacks in the film, to the period when Austria was taken over by the Nazis. We see scenes where the population was stirred up in hatred for the Jews. Jewish families were humiliated by ordinary people on the street, and of course they were eventually led away to their deaths.
Modern “Jew” – the Migrant
But I saw a different scenario. I saw a picture of the government of our country, and large sections of the media encouraging, and stirring up, hatred for the “asylum seekers”, the “economic migrants” and the “illegal immigrants”. I am not suggesting that treatment of migrants is as bad as the suffering inflicted on the Jewish people under the Nazis, but we seem to be heading in that direction.
With the demise of communism, and a socialist party vying to pander to public opinion and trying to hold the middle ground, there is a definite shift to the right, heading towards Fascism.
The government has stated that it plans to make the United Kingdom a “hostile environment” for migrants who are not here legally. They plan to crack down on companies who employ them, force landlords to evict them, prevent them opening bank accounts and generally make their lives miserable. By punishing those already here they hope to create a deterrent for those planning to come here.
But what does this mean in practice. It means children will go hungry, it means an increase in homelessness and it means driving people seeking a wage further into the hands of the criminal gang-masters who exploit them to the point of slavery.
Newspapers don’t help. Are they just reflecting public opinion or are they creating and forming the views of our community? I suggest the latter.
I remember once picking up a newspaper, and turning quickly from the front page which contained a diatribe against migrants. On page 15, or thereabouts, was an article about Dubai and how the worldwide recession was effecting the economy. Apparently many British “settlers” were having to come back home.
When did “immigrants” become a dirty word so that a more friendly word had to be used for British migrants? When did “asylum seekers” get its current connotations when really we should be talking about “ordinary people seeking a place of safety from war, violence and life-threatening persecution”.
Why are there so many programmes about “benefit cheats”, “rogue tenants”, “illegal immigration” and “asylum seekers”? Why is the leading article for days and days about the problem at Calais as people attempt to cross the English Channel to gain access to Britain?
The Bible’s view
The Israelites were strongly nationalistic but God told them that foreigners were not to be ill-treated and were to be loved and respected.
When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not ill-treat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 29:33-34 NIV)
Distribute the land as an allotment for yourselves and for the foreigners who have joined you and are raising their families among you. They will be like native-born Israelites to you and will receive an allotment among the tribes. (Ezekiel 47:22 NLT)
Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow. (Deuteronomy 27:19 NIV)
Paul said that we cannot distinguish on the basis of race, economic status or gender.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28 NIV)
Us and them
The Jews were blamed for the state of the economy. There is a tendency to look for someone to blame when things go wrong. Today people blame migrants for overcrowding, queues at A and E, housing shortage and unemployment.
- “We don’t have enough schools”.
- “The roads are already overcrowded”.
- “We are only a small Island”
- “They drive down wages and steal ‘our’ jobs”!
I could write about:
- The thousands of British people claiming benefits in other european countries.
- The fact that other sizeable countries in Europe grant more people asylum than the U.K. does.
- That the national health system would collapse without ‘foreign’ doctors and nurses.
- That people come to Britain to work and support their families and are less likely to claim benefits than British-born people.
We are encouraged not to have prejudice based on colour, gender, sexual orientation, age and physical abilities. But what about discrimination based on poverty, suffering and citizen status.
- We cannot refuse to employ a man of colour, but the law demands that we refuse employment to those who really need it.
- We used see signs in windows saying, “NO BLACKS, NO IRISH, NO DOGS”, but now we must refuse to rent a house to a homeless, citizen-less family.
- We could be arrested for shouting abuse at a person of different colour, but it seems even our prime minister can talk about “SWARMS” of migrants heading in our direction.
Love and Welcome
How do we change things? There are millions of people who would welcome those coming here for a better life. We must refuse to hear prejudice against minorities. We must stand up against hatred on Facebook and the social media. It is no longer considered acceptable to discriminate based on race; let us work towards a world where all people are of equal value.
Two words come to mind, love and welcome. Let us love and respect those who come here, whether returning Britons or people from other countries. Let us welcome them into our communities for that is what we have done for centuries, and that is what makes Britain great!