How shall we respond to the images of those camped out at Calais hoping to find a lorry to hide in (or under) to come to England or those being rescued from over-crowded, unseaworthy boats in the Mediterranean?
We seemed paralysed, caught like rabbits in the headlights. The Royal Navy take part in the rescue but we then refuse to take our suggested quota of those trapped in camps in Italy. In the face of this human need we feel it would be too shaming to do nothing when people are at risk of drowning, but we are too scared of responding too generously to those in need, lest we are overwhelmed and this tide of humanity becomes an unstoppable flood.
The vain hope seems to be that if we prevaricate long enough, the problem will go away. But there seems little hope this will happen and meanwhile, real people, in real need, are asking for our help, the chance to find a new life away from war, violence and poverty. Is that too much to ask? Is that not what we would want in their situation?
Each time I see the camps at Calais, I wonder whether it is time to once again starting singing with, Cecil Frances Alexander:
The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them high and lowly,
And ordered their estate.
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
Or rather should we hear the voice of Jesus retelling the parable of the rich man and Lazarus who lived in poverty at his gate and how their roles were reversed after death.
To be truly generous to those in need is always costly; being generous when there is no cost is no generosity at all. Short-term it could negatively impact the economy and our own quality of life. But if we can take the risk of finding the money to bail out the banks then surely we can take the risk of, at the very least, taking our quota of those who sit at our gates longing for some crumb to fall from the rich man’s table.
Hoping a problem will go away should not be a government policy.