Posted in Uncategorized

Don’t you love illegal immigrants?

A guest post from Rev’d Martin Kettle. Martin is a policy advisor to the Church of England. He writes in a personal capacity.

Christians do not want a hostile environment. We want to love everyone. That means we want to love illegal immigrants. We DO love illegal immigrants.

Because we love them, we don’t call them immigrants, because we don’t like using nouns as labels to stick on people’s foreheads. This person came into the UK at the age of 4 with their family, is now 21 and is now in a detention centre pending removal. Is this prison an immigrant? Someone else has been here since the 1960s, having come from Jamaica: for sure they migrated, but that doesn’t make them less British than anyone else. And of course, ‘immigrant’ is very often racist code for someone who seems to belong to a visually identifiable category of people many of whom have come to the UK in the last 50 years.

Because we love this person, we don’t call her ‘illegal’. No one is illegal – that is, no one exists illegally. In some places it has been illegal for black and white people to make love. So dual-heritage people were in that context illegal, in exactly the same sense that ‘immigrants’ may be ‘illegal’ today. No one exists illegally, anywhere, ever. God’s favour rests on each single one. Worse still, of course, is turning the adjective into a noun, ‘illegals’.

A hostile environment begins with what is politely known as ‘othering’. The oldest profession, in politics, is the uniting of the people against a common foe. If a real foe does not exist, it becomes necessary for one to be invented. Internal enemies, as in the human body, are the most potent. How we, with absolute rightness, boil and rage against anti-Semitism and all racisms, which slam the label of enemy on a group of fellow-citizens.

A government minister last week said ‘there should be a hostile environment for people who have no lawful right to be here’. The vision seems to be that those unlawful people experience a hostile environment, while everyone around them does not. This is the stuff of sci-fi. An environment is an environment. If, say, it is overcast, that is an environmental phenomenon. There are never small clouds localised over the heads of specific individuals who are marked out as potential targets of imminent precipitation.

There is enough evidence, already, that the measures which Parliament has incrementally approved in pursuit of this hostile environment are constructing an environment for everyone which is markedly nastier. As with all incremental growth of state-sponsored intolerance, the process proceeds step by step and with the drawing in of groups of people to take on, like it or not, something of the demeanour of an enforcer. People working in banks, the DVLA, doctor’s surgeries and hospitals, in NHS IT, in education. Nearly 2 million private landlords, and employers. At the same time, access to justice for the individual has been progressively curtailed by severe restrictions on legal aid and the reduction of appeal rights.

It would not be difficult to set up proper research projects to test the impacts of all this. That really is not happening.

As a nation, we are concerned about integration, about social cohesion. Dame Louise Casey’s report two years ago pointed out the risks to national well-being of having divided communities. There are consultations going on now about the issues. This is a fabulous opportunity for Christians to speak of the common good, to reach for those organic metaphors about community unity with which the New Testament is liberally stuffed. It simply is not possible, either in logic or in the real world, to talk about Britain both in this way and in terms of a hostile environment.

The latest move is to speak not of a hostile environment but of a ‘compliance environment’. To be sure, a clipboard is a less alarming thing than a lynch-mob. Nevertheless, the world of Kafka is as dystopian as any vision of violent enforcement. Compliance or hostility, it still comes down to the fear of a knock on the door. ‘Your papers do not appear to be in order’ is one of the more chilling stock phrases of social drama.

Where do Christians go with this? As ever, to the divine dignity of the human person, and the divine callings of human society. Everyone is fearfully and wonderfully made, whatever label is branded on their brow. Communities have a vocation to hear, welcome and celebrate each and all.

The big point is: none of this is incompatible with people being responsible for their actions, and being held responsible. For all but an out-and-out no-borders internationalist, of whom there are rather few, it may be right that a particular person who has entered the UK illegally should be removed from the UK. It is not necessary to pillory and execrate that person in the process.

If we only realised this we could save the country a lot of money and close most of the immigration detention centres, without going soft in any way on illegal behaviour. Local communities can, with the right information and resourcing, support and hold people, treating them on equal terms as mature and accountable adults.

Our representatives in Parliament are very keen, to their credit, on the resettlement of vulnerable and traumatised refugees in local communities. Various schemes are growing, and the more local civil society is vitally engaged in the resettlement process, the better the outcomes and the value for money. Faith groups are prominent in nearly all of this.

Exactly the same community dynamics can enrich the way in which as a nation we respond to people whose right to be in the UK is in doubt. There are examples in a number of countries around the world, which have been rigorously researched by the International Detention Coalition. Places where people’s lives, including family life, are not just put into a damaging state of stasis while the process grinds on, but where they can work and volunteer and study and contribute and pay taxes and generally be human while their cases move towards a determination.

This has been about immigration. Not primarily about those who seek asylum, ask for protection as refugees for whom return would be impossible or dangerous. But wherever you try to draw distinctions between good and bad migrants, true and false asylum seekers, economic migrants and refugees, you will find uncomfortably broad overlaps and borderlands, grey areas which, for the people who live in them, can be very grey indeed.

Our government, our Parliament, our people, are not ogres. There are so many in the Home Office, in every place, trying to do the best job in a humane manner. Often there are open doors to engagement: for example in the weighing of asylum claims resting on the profession of Christian faith, where church representatives have long striven to contribute to informed and rational casework processes, with some success especially at the present time. But the thread of Christian values running through our country’s self-identity has a real and practical role in national discourse about immigration, one that is readily shared among those of other faiths and none. It is not about hostility and its close relation, hate. It is about community and its personal correlate, love.

Posted in art, Uncategorized

Guest blogpost: Broken Beauty

The Japanese art of Kintsugi works with brokenness. Ceramics that have been damaged are repaired with gold.  This is a mending process that acknowledges rather than hides from the past and in so doing takes the risk of something new.

This theme of Broken Beauty is the title of an artist residency in Southwark Cathedral that will take place in May and June 2018 to mark the first anniversary of the London Bridge attack.

Southwark Cathedral was in the centre of the terror and violence of that night and remained closed for a week afterwards. As a member of the congregation, I was deeply aware of how painful the closure would be for the Cathedral staff at the very moment when the cathedral would have wanted to be open for those in need of solace.  The fabric of the building had been damaged including external and internal doors.  During the Dean’s sermon on the first Sunday after the cathedral was reopened, Andrew Nunn explained how the marks on the Sacristry door would remain as an acknowledgement of what had taken place and this painful event in the life of the cathedral and the local community.

My artist residency includes a specially commissioned work incorporating prints taken from the Sacristy door together with prints from other parts of the cathedral that have been worn and damaged over the centuries, during which time the cathedral has been witness to many periods of violence. Goldwork will be added to the piece as an echo of Kintsugi. This installation will be hung in the RetroChoir from 2nd June 2018 alongside two of my existing pieces on the theme of mourning and healing.

‘Quilt’ combines printmaking and textile as a reflection on mourning.  This was first exhibited as a group show in Roundhay, Leeds in the exhibition ‘Word turned upside down’ in 2017, taking a contemporary look at the Beatitudes.  This piece was created in response to Jesus’s saying: ‘Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.’ The quilt is made of men’s cotton hankerchiefs. Each square contains a fragile monoprint on tissue paper. Running through each print are gold stitches.

Heirloom continues the theme of broken beauty. Instead of disgarding these broken shells, each has been painted in Japanese Sumi ink and the edges gilded.  Sometimes the most important things to pass on are not perfect objects but qualities that strive to find beauty and work for wholeness, to be repairers together. There will be two community events linked to this residency, Mending Circles where participants are invited to bring an item of clothing to sit and mend together (you can book in here (June 4th) or here (June 7th).

Alison Clark is a British artist whose work includes drawing, painting, printmaking and installation. Her work revolves around a sense of place, whether documenting a shoreline or printmaking from the interior of a church building. This she combines with her academic interest in listening.  She has exhibited across the UK including an artist residency in St Peter’s de Beauvoir Church, Hackney in 2016 and a solo exhibition in Orkney in 2017, where she is a member of Soulisquoy Printmakers.

Both the faithful and their ordained ministers suffer because of homilies: the laity from having to listen to them and the clergy from having to preach them!

Let us renew our confidence in preaching, based on the conviction that it is God who seeks to reach out to others through the preacher, and that he displays his power through human words.

Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, 69-70

Posted in Croydon, Uncategorized

Croydon Tram tragedy

A statement from leaders of Croydon’s Faith Communities on today’s tram derailment.

As leaders of the faith communities in the Borough of Croydon we join together to express our grief and shock at this terrible accident. We are remembering in our prayers those who have lost their lives, the injured, those who have been bereaved and their friends and families. We pray too for those in the emergency services who have responded so quickly to this tragic event.

This Sunday’s Remembrance Service at Croydon Minster, alongside remembering those who have died in war, will also include prayers for all those involved in this tragic accident.

The Rt Revd Jonathan Clark, Bishop of Croydon

The Revd Reuben Martin, Convenor Croydon Churches Forum

Nisar Karim, South London Council of Mosques

Posted in Uncategorized

Holy Week, unholy deeds

‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains a single grain. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.’

Jesus looks forward to his own death, his sacrifice of himself. In this Holy Week we are looking forward to our celebration – yes, celebration of Good Friday. A day of torture and death which was the sowing of the seed of abundant and eternal life. Christ received into himself the hatred and violence of humanity and transformed it into its opposite.

And then Brussels. Three men it would seem sacrificed themselves as suicide bombers. A sacrifice built on hatred of European culture, a sacrifice that desires to spawn yet more hatred, and its cousin fear. This seed seeks to die in order to make a harvest as horrible as itself, hundreds of times over.

I can’t condemn anyone for anger at a time like this. It’s because I know well what anger is like that I pray that it may not set hard into hatred. That way leads to the success of the suicide bomber. The more difficult path is for anger to become the passionate search for justice, and its cousin peace.

That is the way of the cross. If we can walk in it, even falteringly, we are beginning to take the seeds of hate and transform them into love.