I was in Calais on Monday visiting a group of people derisively dismissed yesterday by David Cameron as a 'bunch of migrants'. Like his 'swarm' comments of last year, it shows a contemptable lack of human empathy on the part of our nation's leader, and proves him to be an embarrassment to civilised people.
The people I was with were a group of hard working community leaders, who in the teeth of almost insuperable odds and constant provocation from a French police service hell-bent on stirring conflict with the camp residents, are making a community in the sand dunes that actually works.
I spent time with a Sudanese community leader who toured the section of the camp for which he has some responsibily distributing tickets so that those who run community kitchens could go to the distribution centre to pick up a week's supply of food. The community kitchens are modelled on the one he has been running since the summer when he arrived in the camp. They are a way of ensuring people get fed, but much more than that, they are a way of creating community, of ensuring that the isolated are drawn into fellowship, that weaker and more softly spoken ones receive an equitable share of the food on offer. They make the camp a more civilised place.
Of course, as with all human activity, it is not without its problems. And my friend spends a good deal of his time an energy working to resolve disputes between people from different nations and ethnic groups. It's a burden he carries with grace and good humour most of the time. It is a huge honour and privilege to stand by his side and support the work he is doing.
He, to use this government's divisive language, is a striver; he is striving to make the best of the awful hand life has dealt him. He has fled a government that wanted him dead, leaving a wife nd children in the care of other family members; he has made a perilous journey across the sea and through Europe to the relative safety of the jungle. And having arrived, he has set about seeking to create a community that works in the interests of as many of the residents of the camp as possible.
So, instead of sneering at Jeremy Corbyn for hanging out with a bunch of migrants, perhaps the Prime Minister should follow in Corbyn's footsteps and visit the jungle, sit and eat with these people and learn what it means to a builder of community not a casual dismisser of of people's hopes.
Perhaps the government could be part of the solution to this crisis and not a bystander making things much worse for everyone involved.
Thursday, January 28, 2016
Perhaps the government could be part of the solution for a change
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Your comment about "strivers" is interesting. Those in Calais are the risk-takers, the problem solvers, the ones who refuse to accept a substandard existence, who take the initiative to leave danger. These are the people we want to work with, the strivers. Keeping you all in my prayers, thank you for your work and for keeping us informed.
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