Today marks the beginning of refugee week. The above sculpture by Frances Bruno Catalano is entitled ‘The Refugee’. What does it say to you? As I look at it, I am struck by how the top part of the gap looks like a heart. Is to be a refugee to have one’s heart ripped out? I suspect it is. There’s a certain rhetoric about refugees which I’m not going to rehearse here, but have you truly considered what it means to leave one’s home and, in some cases, everyone you love behind; to come away with no more than you can physically carry; to be forced into such a position by war, climate change, grinding poverty or persecution? Then try (for try is all we can do) to imagine what it is like for the refugee who is a child.
Are you aware of the UK’s stance on child refugees? Current plans would make family reunion entirely discretionary. In Europe, there are thousands of unaccompanied child refugees living in the most appalling conditions. Legal family reunion is a lifeline to those children who would otherwise risk their lives in boats or in the back of lorries in order to reach the UK and be with their family. Amnesty International UK, the Refugee Council and Save the Children have recently issued a report, ‘Without my Family’ – a piece of research on the impact of family separation on child refugees. Based on in-depth interviews with children and young people affected by the policy on refugee family reunion, the report shows how they are being harmed by denying them the fundamental right of being with their family.
God’s constant refrain throughout the Bible is a call to love the widow, the orphan and the alien/stranger (depending upon the translation). Let’s not forget that Jesus was a child refugee. I wonder how things might have worked out if he’d been separated from Mary and Joseph in Egypt?