The following article is posted by permission of David McEwan, Lay Chaplain of St Kiaran’s, Campbeltown. It appeared as the pastoral letter in St Kiaran’s recent newsletter and turns out to be even more relevant as the news of the refugee crisis unfolds.
Some months ago, my wife and I enjoyed a relaxing lunch in an Italian restaurant in Aberdeen. We were on a day trip from Glasgow, taking advantage of a special fare promotion on the train. The meal was excellent and the service friendly, welcoming and prompt. We could not make up our minds as to the nationality of the waitress. She spoke with a strong Scottish accent but at the same time there were inflections in her voice which suggested that she might be Italian. Her jet black hair seemed to confirm our thoughts. How wrong we were. We plucked up courage to ask, only to find out that she was from Latvia!
As part of the European Union we are required to open up our workplace to any of the nations in the Union, just as we have access to their workplaces. Some people are now questioning this requirement and even resent workers from other countries coming to work here, but it is all too easy to forget how Scotland, along with the rest of the United Kingdom, has had a long, long history of imposing itself on other countries worldwide, sometimes with unhelpful results.
In biblical times, travel between countries was common and the same tensions which exist now, existed then too. Paul, for example, was a native of modern-day Turkey, but first learned about Christianity in Syria and took that message throughout the Mediterranean countries – Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, Italy and even had plans to visit Spain. Being hospitable to foreigners was part and parcel of not just Jewish culture, but Arab culture too. Even the most holy of religious observances – the Jewish Passover – was open to foreigners. Generosity of spirit is very important. It is always a challenge, but the bible reminds us that when we do offer hospitality to people from other countries, we are, as it were, entertaining Christ himself. That must surely be good and worthwhile, so, when we are faced with this, let’s make every effort to try to respond in as positive and as welcoming a way as we can.