Right now, I am finding it so hard to concentrate on my work. Not because it is not important; not because I care less for either DRC or Sierra Leone, the two countries I currently cover in my role as Programme Funding Officer at Christian Aid. Rather, it is hard to ignore that while planning reports and project proposals for these two far-away places, there is a humanitarian crisis unfolding on our doorstep, and the response from the UK government and also from the public (and that includes me!) in helping hundreds and thousands of desperate people is, in my opinion, far too slow in coming.
The media here in the UK is full of stories; of claims that “Britain is full”; that we have no room; of rhetoric, initiated by our politicians which seems to indicate that the issue is far more complicated than meets the eye. Really?
Yes, it is complicated; yes this is an unprecedented crisis; yes, the sheer need of these thousands of human beings and their desire to travel within Europe is one which none of us here in Europe have foreseen or planned for. Yes, there are political and legal issues which come into it, and questions that needs to be answered about immigration, people flows, benefits, border and perhaps even their value in modern times.
But at the end of the day, some of these questions and the dithering that comes with seeking to answer them while thousands continue to pile up at border crossings, on ships, trains, lorries and containers are an excuse to shy away from looking at what is really essential: those that are being held while waiting for governments to answers these questions are people like you and me, people in need. They are people who have risked their lives to come here and spent their lives’ savings on their hazardous journey; people who have already lost relatives and all their belongings, people who wonder what will happen to those whom they have left behind. If you reduce the issue to its very core, the one question we have to answer is: what can we do, urgently, not in weeks and months, to help people who need us? People who share our common humanity? Is there really no room at the inn? Can we REALLY and with integrity, say this?
When I was in Congo in January, I met with people in remote, desperately poor communities, who despite struggling for survival themselves, had opened their homes to displaced families who had fled violence and conflict in other parts of the country; some families were displaced themselves and surviving on relief goods, and yet shared all they had with these new arrivals. Out of hospitality, out of an understanding of our shared humanity. It was not easy for them either and yes, eventually there were tensions between host families and displaced people, too. But the fact remains that out of a gut reaction, out of love for their fellow human beings, their initial response was to open their doors to others who needed their help and to worry about the consequences of that later.
Can we not do the same? I include myself in that question. Currently I am not sharing my flat with anyone either, would worry that if someone came to my door, I would be too frightened to let them in. So many “what ifs”. So all I am doing is sitting here writing my blog, having offered to volunteer at a refugee agency in Watford, written to my MP and asked questions about Christian Aid’s policy position at work. That, too, is too little.
But I at least want to begin asking those questions—of myself and of others. How will I be able to live with myself if I don’t do something soon….even if it is just a small drop in the ocean? And as a Christian, how will I stand, one day, before Jesus, and explain that as people suffered right on our doorsteps, I went about my daily business as if nothing had changed?