Insight

Welcome to the blog of Commissioner Clive Adams. Leader of The Salvation Army United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland
 
 

The creed and the colour and the name does matter

12 June 2015 - 4:25pm
| by Clive Adams
|

The creed and the colour and the name does matter…

“We’re full!”  This is one of the uncompromisingly forthright responses in social media to the presentation the Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin made as she appealed to the world, the EU and the UK to do something more about the plight of those risking everything to cross the Mediterranean Sea for a better life in Europe. 

Last night, Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, who is chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons appeared on Andrew Neil’s “This Week” show and made the basic premise that every nation should take responsibility for:

A) helping out with the crisis being played out in the Mediterranean

B) working towards long-term solutions for the conditions - war, poverty, exploitation - that force people to take the risks they do, and which result in so many deaths. 

She said:  "We’ve been standing by and watching for too long. These are human beings, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, infants, pregnant women, all desperately trying to escape war and hunger."

Every single comment made in response to her presentation being posted on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/bbcthisweek) was negative… many were disdainful and dismissive.  Given the strong sentiments articulated in those comments I know that my viewpoint as expressed in this blog will be controversial and provocative.

You see, I endorse Rose’s sentiments.  Whereas I understand the nub of the argument against helping out – viz. that we don’t have enough space or resources to meet what seems to be an unending problem…  or, in the words of one of the respondents, “we’re full” – I believe that the practical challenges should not prevent Europe doing something.  Many Europeans seem to have conveniently forgotten that economic emigration caused the scourge of colonialism of the 17th - 20th centuries which plagued Africa, Asia and South America for centuries.  Europeans left their home countries more frequently in search of a better future than to escape a difficult present.  In essence, the majority were economic emigrants who sought their fortune in what was, to the colonizing nations of Europe, land that was up for grabs. 

So, are there any differences between what Europeans did then, to what these migrants are doing today?  I’d like to highlight two differences:

1) The boot is on the other boot – Europe has become the recipient as opposed to being the sender of economic migrants

2) Today’s migrants are, at least, not annexing the land of Europeans, as indeed was the case when the journeys wended the other way, though they are accused of using up the resources and space.  As was succinctly expressed:  “We’re full!”!

Rose’s presentation came the night before the news broke of Australia's creative policies in keeping immigration figures down.  Allegedly, the people smugglers are being paid significant sums of money to return their human cargo to their embarkation points rather than help them into Australian territory.   Whereas Australia’s immigration and foreign ministers have denied making payments, the Prime Minister refused to deny it, and claimed that, at least they were stopping boats from coming in… something they would continue to do “by hook and by crook”.  The irony is, of course, that, a couple of centuries ago, or so, boats landed from Europe, unimpeded by the local population…

What would our Founder say about this?  Interestingly, Salvation Army history makes very clear what our position should be:   William and Bramwell Booth worked closely with the likes of Cecil John Rhodes (who usurped/cajoled/grabbed huge chunks of Southern Africa for Britain) to obtain such questionably acquired land for economic emigrants (the poor from London's East End!).  Accordingly, I believe that the principle he espoused so vigorously - moving the marginalized and impoverished to a place where the prospects of a better life are great - should be one that European Salvationists should espouse even though they are on the receiving end now.  (Perhaps that should read:  "... because they are on the receiving end now!")   As I stated at the outset, this is an extremely unpopular view to take in Fortress Europe, but, I am as unapologetic as the Founder was in his day, in holding it!

What would the Founder of the Church say?  I believe that Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:31ff.  are relevant to this challenge, and worth reflecting upon.  As I read those verses again, I am reminded of the song we used to sing around campfires in Cape Town:

When I needed a neighbour

Were you there, were you there?

When I needed a neighbour

Were you there?
 

And the creed and the colour

And the name wont matter

Were you there?
 

I was hungry and thirsty

Were you there, were you there?

I was hungry and thirsty

Were you there?
 

And the creed and the colour

And the name wont matter

Were you there?
 

I was cold, I was naked

Were you there, were you there?

I was cold, I was naked

Were you there?
 

And the creed and the colour

And the name wont matter

Were you there?
 

When I needed a shelter

Were you there, were you there?

When I needed a shelter

Were you there?
 

And the creed and the colour

And the name wont matter

Were you there?
 

When I needed a healer

Were you there, were you there?

When I needed a healer

Were you there?
 

And the creed and the colour

And the name wont matter

Were you there?

Wherever you travel

Ill be there, Ill be there.

Wherever you travel

Ill be there.
 

And the creed and the colour

And the name wont matter

Ill be there.
 

Given the lethargy with which this crisis is being addressed, it would seem that the creed and the colour and the name does matter!

God help them!

God help us!

Comments

Submitted by Brian Jones on

Well said. Your insights may indeed be controversial to some but then Jesus was never afraid to be controversial in the pursuit of justice and mercy.

Submitted by Graham Brooke-Smith on

We do not easily grasp the depths of fear, the horrors of war or the agony of startvation that drives our 'neighbour' to risk all in search of, not just a better life, but just the hope of survival. Thank you for writing this helpful blog Commissioner Clive. As Jesus said: "When you did it to the least of these... that was Me"

Submitted by Timothy Jeqeza ... on

A thoughtful response indeed. It calls for a very deep sense of reflection on the things that are going on around the world and, in particular the Christian Church's obligation and responsibility to the Great Commission. I also think it is in response to the Holy Spirit's counsel that you bravely blogged on what could be deemed "unpopular and controversial" topic and yet remain "unapologetic" about it. Truth be told, the challenges of emigration are taking a new turn in the 21st century, for socio-economic reasons and otherwise. and These are issues that demand for us as part of the whole Christian Church to reflect on and seek the guidance of the Lord as to our reaction and steps that should be taken. For now, I would dare agree with you on what seem to matter under the current circumstances.

Submitted by Colonel Hubert ... on

Thank God for a SA leader willing to speak out boldly on such an important moral issue, echoes of the way in which earlier leaders followed the example of the Founder. Thank you, Commissioner. I shall write to you with a suggestion as to how your message might be followed down also in the same spirit of the Founder who, when told by Bramwell about the plight of homeless men sleeping under railway arches, responded 'Well go do something about it' and words were translated into actions

Submitted by Tom Stirling on

I'm sure that very few people would disagree with the sentiments expressed by the Reverend Hudson-Wilkin. The humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Mediterranean, and in Southeast Asia, provides an uncomfortable challenge to those countries that are called upon to make a response. It is simply unacceptable to allow vulnerable people to die in this way.

I do however have some issues with what Hudson-Wilkin said. She is very forthright with her moral outrage, but did add ‘I don’t have a solution for the problem’. I was reminded of the words of the America poet Norman Mailer who once said ‘It is the actions of men, and not their sentiments that make history’. This world is full of those who are happy to express their outrage; what we need are people who are able to turn that outrage into action and produce a cogent strategy.

I am also concerned about the Reverend’s reference to European colonialism. Whilst in the 21st century not many people would seek to condone the actions of the colonialists, it is perhaps time to stop engaging in a blame game. The ill-judged connection between the Founder and Cecil Rhodes is perhaps testimony to how easy it was for Europeans of the time to draw lines on a map, with no consideration for the indigenous peoples. The European Union, when working at its best, is testament to the ability of former enemies to put the past behind them and work together for a common goal. In the interests of those who are suffering it is perhaps time to lay aside grievances from hundreds of years ago and work together for the common good.

Submitted by Clive T Adams on

To be clear, Tom Stirling, it was not the good Reverend who raised the matter of colonialism. I did, and whereas I readily concur with the importance of agreeing to walk on together, I do not apologise for linking the issue to the past.

My blog was written in response to the negative comments made about Reverend Hudson-Wilkin's piece - comments which amongst other things, criticised people for daring to seek after a better life - "economic migrants" do not appear to be acceptable to some. That needs to be challenged.

Just as it is important for this nation never to forget the conflicts in which its soldiers gave the supreme sacrifice (as I type, the battle of Waterloo is being re-enacted) as is done with great pomp and ceremony every November, without it apparently straining relations with Britain's former enemies. It is done to honour and commemorate, but also to remind the world (and especially those former enemies, now friends) that such atrocities should be avoided in future. In the same way, the people of the colonies have the moral right, and, indeed, obligation to respect, remember and remind - especially when, by their actions and/or their words, the descendants of the offenders appear to have forgotten what their forebears did.

Remembering a divided past in that way, and determining to do better together in the future is precisely the point of this blog.

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