Weekly Blog - David Flowers - Elevating Our Wellbeing
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Posted on: 2nd May 2023
Last Easter our church did what we have always done (it’s a tradition) and headed up Ilkley Moor for a Good Friday gathering; a time of reflection; an egg hunt for the children; an egg-throwing ritual for the “grown-ups” and a trek across to the Cow and Calf and back again.
One of our families brought Christina, a young Ukrainian woman who had come to Leeds under the Homes for Ukraine scheme and who was living in a North Leeds home and being well looked after. She smiled happily as she joined in with everyone.
Another refugee, Karim from Iran whose status is uncertain and who lives in “basic” accommodation in East Leeds, hovered fearfully on the fringes of the group. Two immigrants, one having a significantly better experience than the other (neither are their real names).
A few weeks ago Catherine Beaumont wrote an excellent blog for this site, challenging our country’s ambivalence over immigration. She looked at the way Jesus lived and concluded, “We are in no position to be choosey about who we will accept into our own communities.”
But recently we witnessed Robert Jenrick MP (the Immigration Minister) declaring to MPs in the Commons, “This government remains committed to meeting our legal obligations to those who would otherwise be destitute. But we are not prepared to go further. Accommodation for migrants should meet their essential living needs and nothing more. … We must not elevate the well-being of illegal migrants above those of the British people.”
And yet, a year ago, the same MP welcomed Maria, 40, Christina, 11, and Boden, 15, into his Nottinghamshire home. “Maria and her children had been through ‘harrowing’ experiences in Ukraine,” he said, “and had queued for seven hours at the Polish border on their way to the UK.”
For whatever reason we are treating some “foreigners” differently to others. In scripture the foreigner is a regular member of the “quartet of the vulnerable”. For example, see the list in Zechariah 7:19, “Do not oppress (1) widows, (2) orphans, (3) foreigners, and (4) the poor.” Today, a quartet of the vulnerable would not look very different although we might re-frame it slightly: those without families and parents; those with physical or mental disabilities; the poor; refugees and asylum seekers.
Micah 6:8 is a precis of how we are to treat the vulnerable: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Loving mercy is the attitude, and doing justice is the resulting action.
Scripture does not give us choice of doing justice differently for some people than for others. The essence of doing justice is to treat people equitably (the ultimate “levelling-up”). Leviticus 24:20 tells us that, “the same standard applies both to native-born Israelites and to the foreigners living among you. I am the Lord your God.” (The context being the punishment of a law-breaker.)
This means that rather than just some of us being assured of welcome and protection and legal even-handedness, everyone should be assured of the same treatment. Watching Jesus we see someone who embodies mercy and takes it further still by giving preferential treatment to the vulnerable. I think Robert Jenrick is wrong, we must be people who do justice which means not just being equitable; we must go further and seek to elevate the wellbeing of migrants and other vulnerable people above even our own wellbeing.
By the way, I am glad to report that Karim did eventually feel safe enough and welcomed enough to join in with our Easter trek across Ilkley Moor.
David Flowers, Leeds Vineyard