From the Revd Andrew Allen
Sir, — In the chancel of the University Church in Oxford, amid memorials to the great and good of university and church, is a small metal cross, about five inches in diameter. Those German immigrants who were welcomed to St Mary’s just before the Second World War gave it to the church in gratitude for their welcome. Many were Christian, and some were academics, all fleeing from persecution in Nazi Germany.
Here at Exeter College, two of the students — out of a total 350 — have grandparents who came to England thanks to the courage and vision of people like Sir Nicholas Winton and the Kindertransport programme. These immigrants were received and welcomed into Britain.
Over the past week there have been horrific stories of immigrants’ trying to reach England by walking through the Channel Tunnel — horrific because the chief concern, from Prime Minister down, is about the inconvenience to holidaymakers on their summer getaways.
When did Britain stop becoming hospitable? Why is the country so scared of a few thousand people? The language used in the press would suggest the storming and breach of the Bastille, instead of a few thousand desperate people who have trekked from Northern Africa, and crossed the Mediterranean on seriously dodgy ships, in the hope of a safe future in the UK — people who have endured situations that mean that buying a wetsuit and attempting to swim the Channel is preferable to what they experienced at home. They think this is a land of welcome and of hope. We should be ashamed of ourselves.
But why this shift in attitude? Has Britain become more racist, as it ceased to be a world player, with diverse ethnicities represented in the Empire? Or is it also people’s ignorance: our forebears in the late 1930s recognised the evilness of Hitler, but do we not accept that Islamic State or the emerging regimes after the short-lived Arab Spring are cruel and evil, too?
Hospitality is at the core of the gospel: where are the Churches in these discussions? It seems that they, like society, have given up: shrinking numbers, diminished influence, and fear mean Church, like State, has lost confidence in itself and turned inward. Self-lamentation and introspection mean that we are missing the opportunity to show to the world the need for Christ’s message of embrace and hospitality.
Chaplain and Bishop Radford Fellow Exeter College
Oxford OX1 3DP
From Mr Ron Jeffries
Sir, — Well done, the Bishop of Dover, for speaking out to put the Christian perspective on the migrant crisis — which is not in Calais, or in Kent, Italy, or Greece. It is in the countries whence the refugees are coming — both economic, and those fleeing persecution, torture, and starvation.
Barbed wire, CCTV, and yet more security guards are not the solution. We must all accept shared responsibility, taking less for ourselves, and giving more where it is so desperately needed.
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