I was recently at a gathering of people in the city of Lancaster talking among other things about what the city might be like if it was ‘healthy’. I had the privilege of listening to a singer/songwriter called David Benjamin Blower. He writes protest songs. He was singing one song about refugees/asylum seekers and in his opening spiel, he talked about how it can be easy to love form a distance, to feel moved and motivated to “do something”. But when people come to live in our neighbourhoods or in our homes, the challenge to us is to love at an entirely different level.
The response of governments to the refugee (we cannot and must not call those desolated by war “migrants”) crisis has been slow and lacking in humanity. David Cameron will announce today how many refugees we will now (under political pressure) welcome into the UK. We must not allow these people to put into some kind of awful detention centre or in any way be made to feel unwelcome.
My wife and I (along with countless other families across the UK) would welcome a family into our home. We’ve had destitute asylum seekers live with us before through the amazing Boaz Trust in Manchester and it has been an utterly humbling and richly rewarding experience. Even if it isn’t this time, and is full of inconvenience and pain, love compels us to embrace the “other”.
I’m not the world’s best singer/songwriter, but I’ve found over the last few months that I have written many protest songs…..I will be posting them on this blog (with HUGE thanks to my friend Andrew Towers at purple videos for filming them) over the coming weeks. This first one is written, putting myself (as far as I am able through imagination) in the place of a refugee and singing to the powers – to David Cameron, to Theresa May, to George Osborne, to the other leaders of Europe and indeed the USA…..Have a listen…..It’s called “Will You Love Me?”
If we are to reimagine the future, we must allow dreams of a different future to penetrate our subconsciousness and impregnate our thoughts and subsequently our actions with new possibilities. As many across the world have reflected on the remarkable life of Martin Luther King in these past days, and read again his phenomenal speech of his preferred future, his dream of a different life ahead, of justice, forgiveness, togetherness, friendship, equality and love; I have been struck by the power of the actions that began to make that dream a reality. The kind of loving actions which are tough and unwavering in the face of injustice. The kind of loving action which does not lie down and take it, but turns the other cheek, demanding love on an equal footing.
I have been thinking about what our dreams might be for the future. After all the debate in the USA over gun control, we find it easy to make crass judgements about a culture we don’t fully understand. We happily point the finger, whilst the UK government continues to make appalling investment in the arms trade and nuclear weapons. It makes us feel better to focus on ‘the other’ and their problems. But which of us dreams of a future of violence? We say we want peace, but do we? Is enforced peace really peace, or is it a fear based behaviour? True peace involves taking our weapons and transforming them into tools for goodness.
If we dream of a different future, how many of us are willing to change the way we vote around that issue? How many would refuse to vote for a party which supported any arms agreement or nuclear armament? How many more of us could rise to the great protests on the streets? Why do we not hear more political debate on real alternatives to the armed forces and to war? The problem is, deep in our psyche, we still believe peace comes through control, violence and dominance rather than through violent love. We may believe this is how God operates and so if we’re the ‘goodies’ built on ‘good foundations’ it justifies our violence…….
The gun lobby argument that the weapon makes no difference is ridiculous. The more we arm ourselves with weapons of violence, the more likely we are to use them to do violence. I don’t just dream of people laying down arms in the USA. I want people everywhere to lay down their arms. I believe this is a dream of most people. I think the challenge to us is this: what are we going to do differently to make the dream a reality?