No room!

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many places to stay.” These words have been set to music in a well-known Zimbabwe song. They console us. There is room for everyone. I was thinking of them this week when I attended a workshop in Zambia on prison ministry. There is “no room” for people in our prisons, not just in Zambia. We learnt of the “over-crowding and under-funding” of prisons all over Africa and elsewhere.

It is an offence against human dignity when a person is so cramped for space they cannot even lie down. They have to take it in turns to sleep. Statistics overwhelm us – all telling us facilities build for, say, 400, now house 1000. But, what is worse, there is “no room” in the thinking of civic society for the plight of these most vulnerable people. And because it is not a priority for us, the people, it is not a priority for the politicians who represent us.

And what is equally disturbing is the way politicians sometimes use the flaccid nature of our electorates to stir up hostile feelings towards people who are “not like us.” We have no room for foreigners. “Xenophobia” is becoming more marked in our time than before. Jesus’ ancestor Ruth said, “your people will be my people.” But Jesus own parents found the innkeeper in Bethlehem less accomodating. He answered their knock on his door with, “Sorry, no room!”

We need a “paradigm shift” in our thinking if we are to “image” the thinking of God who welcomes everyone and has room for all. The good news is we are making progress. Germanyfor instance, under Angela Merkel, has opened its door to migrants in a stunning signal to other countries. There are many problems connected with welcoming people but it is the right thing to do and gradually we can meet the challnges.

“We are all immigrants” has become a popular saying, though it is probably used less by those who are threatened by an influx of migrants into their district than by those, and I include myself, who are desk philosophers and not personally affected. But we are all called to metanoia, changing our way of thinking. For what it is worth, I know there was a time when I was afraid of handicapped people, prisoners and foreigners. But my circumstances allowed me to grow out of my fears – especially when I actually met such people and held their hand.

Easter calls us to “enlarge the site of our tent, and let the curtain of our habitation be stretched out. Do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your tent pegs.” (Isaiah 54:2)

14 May 2017                           Easter Sunday 5 A

Acts 6:1-7                                1 Peter 2:4-9                            John 14: 1-12

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Post published in: Faith