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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

23 September 2015: Revd Chris Williams, St Mary, Liss

Needy Neighbours

It’s not always helpful to begin a column by quoting the Bible, but listen to this: “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.

The motif of refugees and displaced people is one that runs throughout the Bible. The captivity of the Israelites in Egypt, followed by their escape and wilderness wanderings into the Promised Land, are foundational Jewish and Christian stories. The bread and wine consumed at Holy Communion in most Christian churches is a reminder of the Passover meal eaten by the Israelites before leaving Africa as migrants heading for a better life.

The Old Testament contains over 30 commands to love the foreigner and the stranger – and only one to love our neighbour! And even then, when Jesus was asked “Who is my neighbour?” he chose a Samaritan as an example of the perfect neighbour - a person of a foreign culture and religion!

In the story, a Samaritan, while walking down the road came across a Jew who had been badly beaten up. Although a sworn enemy, the Samaritan responded with compassion: getting involved by giving time, energy and money for the healing of the Jew. It’s notable that his first response was compassion.

Yes, we live in difficult times, but too often politicians and the press inspire fear rather than compassion when it comes to responding to the needs of our foreign neighbours. As a Christian, love and compassion should be my first response. What is yours?

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