The first reading for this Sunday reminds us that “God does not have favourites” and that “anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34-35).
I am writing this text before the result of the General Election and the composition of the new government is known. But, given what the major parties have said during the campaign, it seems clear that tough immigration rules and targets will remain. Indeed, things may yet get more difficult for those who want to come here to live, work, study or visit.
It is, of course, reasonable that a society should protect itself from those who would harm it; but we must remember that welcome to people of all nations is part of what Christianity is built upon. St Peter and St Paul, those pillars of the early Church’s preaching, both became migrants. St Paul was shipwrecked three times and spent a night and day in the open sea (2 Cor 11:25). It is through their efforts to reach distant nations that we can now rejoice in the name of Christian.
Peter and Paul both got to Rome, where they died martyrs’ deaths; many hundreds of people each year do not make it as far as Italy, but drown in the Mediterranean or die in other futile attempts to cross borders. Whether these people are called migrants or refugees, the causes of their situation are complex; but the human tragedy is all too plain.
We have in the last few weeks focussed, unsurprisingly, on what is for the good of our national society; but now the election is over we must remember that our duties to a national society are secondary to our fundamental obligations as human beings and as Christians to cherish, support and welcome all human life. We must urge our newly-elected leaders to make these values a reality.