A new feature of my recent visits to some of our schools has been to learn about how children and staff are welcoming Ukrainian children to their community. The hospitality of our schools, reflecting the hospitality of individuals and families opening their doors to those whose lives have been traumatised by war and who overnight have lost everything by becoming refugees. Their plight has touched a chord in our common humanity.
The Ukrainian families we welcome today stand in a long line of those we have welcomed to this land over the centuries beginning in the modern era with French Huguenots who arrived on our shores in the late 17th century. Today they join those from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere fleeing war, famine, and persecution for a place of safety, many of them in Gloucestershire helped through the extraordinary work of Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers, GARAS. The work of GARAS is focused on welcome, support, advocacy and for those formally recognised as refugees helping them settle into their long-term future in this country.
GARAS, those families hosting refugees in their homes, our schools are visible reminders of the hospitality that at our best has been part of this nation’s heritage for generations. For those of us who seek to follow Jesus Christ, who was himself a refuge in Egypt, it is a reminder of the hospitality in which we are called to share.
The Bible accounts remind us that this is not straightforward. The world has been divided since the expulsion of Adam and Eve from paradise and the divisions of the tribes and the nations that followed, yet Christ’s birth, death and resurrection is focused on our call to be those who seek to return to the unity with which we were called, and the purpose for which we were created by the one in whom there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female but in whom we are all one (Galatians 3:28)
In the face of war and of all its consequences, not least those impacting our own economy and the lives of our families it is, I am convinced, more crucial than ever that we remember to practice the hospitality of our God and of Jesus Christ, that which who keep us true to what we are called to be in him.
I wonder how we might see this in our lives and those of our parishes, schools, chaplaincies, fresh expression, each of our communities this week?