Views from the Pews: Neighbourliness: How far should we go?

Dr Alex Appiah
Dr Alex Appiah

The seemingly unstoppable flow of desperate refugees and economic migrants from war torn Islamic nations into Europe and the harrowing stories of loss of lives including children on the seas are deeply disturbing to well-meaning and compassionate people everywhere.

Sadly, we have seen and continue to witness the bickering and lack of a coherent humane response by EU and our own leaders on how to deal with the situation.

Life Cente, Market Weighton.

Life Cente, Market Weighton.

What we are witnessing today in this mass movement of suffering people in search for better life could be compared in some way to the Biblical mass exodus of the Israelites after suffering prolonged oppression at the hands of their Egyptian slave masters.

In recent past, the impact of the ethnic genocide, which forced more than two million Rwandans to leave their country and seek asylum in neighbouring countries of Congo, Tanzania, Uganda, and Burundi; and the mass emigration of Kosovans into Western countries, particularly Germany and Switzerland motivated by the armed conflict in the 1990s and economic reasons are two poignant examples to remember.

After these humanitarian disasters, the ‘powers that be’ admitted their “failure to respond” to the early warnings of what was about to happen.

For instance, in December 1999, Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General publicly stated the UN’s commitment ‘never to fail’ to protect people from genocide in the same way as they had failed in Rwanda (UN press release 1999).

The current unfolding Syrian crisis has not just suddenly crept on us unknowing.

The West has always through its own interests been happy to prop up tyrants, who oppress their own people so long as they serve their economic gains agenda.

The hypocrisy and inconsistencies of Western governments over the years have been major contributory factors that have allowed the brutalities and atrocities we are witnessing to perpetuate around the world’s troubled spots. What am I saying: “Have the chickens come home to roost?”

In my last article, I argued the need to address the vast inequalities around the world.

Today, my question is how far should we go in being neighbourly to the suffering?

In thinking about this, I am simply reminded of the famous quotation of Martin Niemöller (1892–1984), a prominent Protestant pastor who was an outspoken public enemy of Adolf Hitler: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Trade Unionist.

“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”

The Bible says: “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 NLT).

What is the church doing to share the love of Christ in this crisis? How far is Europe prepared to go in being Christ-like to our suffering fellow human being from the Muslim world?

If you would like to discuss this further, I will be glad to hear your thoughts. Contact me on 01430 879927; Email:pastor@living-springs.org.uk or visit our church service this Sunday at 10.30am at the Life Centre in Market Weighton. Thanks and may God show us the way.