Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The very easy road to heaven. Oh, wait...

So...there's this massive humanitarian crisis in Syria and this is leading to a refugee crisis that no-one wants to deal with. Let's build fences. Let's share them out. Let's take people who really deserve help but not those who don't (laying aside the fact that anyone who views crossing the sea in a tiny boat as better than what they're going through right now is presumably in the middle of a pretty awful state of right now). Then we have the added complications of politics and political ramifications which mean that the response to such suffering isn't based just on the person in front of us and their need. This doesn't just happen at government level, but also on a personal one.

But I was thinking that welcoming the stranger is a corporal work of mercy, up there with feeding the hungry etc, so it's pretty clear that that's what we ought to be doing. Jesus was pretty unequivocal ergo let's get on with it. But perhaps the reason that we aren't getting on with it is the same reason Jesus had to be so specific is: these things are really, really hard work. I happen to know a bit more about one of these than the others: caring for the sick. This is my job. I get paid for it, and I really like it, but when I'm on call and I'm at home tucked up in bed and I get a call at midnight with a question from a doctor or a need for medication in an emergency, caring for the sick is not fun. I think it's hard and in these circumstances I might not even need to leave my home to do it. Having said that, it is a strangely priviledged experience to go to work at midnight because someone needs my help, even while I complain. But if the additional reimbursement I receive for on call work still leaves it challenging, how much more so doing these things without obvious compensation.

I am not sharing my house with a refugee right now. And while I don't claim to know what the answer is, I think we also need to recognise that it's not just the fact of refugees and migrants and human suffering which is hard, but also responding to that. Obvious, but hard.