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Dear All

 

My paternal grandparents could find no work in rural Berkshire in the 1900’s. My great aunt Ellen wrote from South Wales reporting there was plenty of work in the Swansea Valley. Reluctantlythey moved. My grandfather found a job in a sulphur factory; hazardous employment took him to an early grave. My grandmother didn’t like the Welsh, hated her children learning Welsh,and forbid them from playing with Welsh children, a rule my father disobeyed. He retained a love for all things Welsh, including an accent, supported the Welsh team in ruby union and the Glamorgan cricket team. In the 1950’s we enjoyed various holidays in Swansea with our ‘Welsh’ relatives.

 

A sick father, and high unemployment led my father to join the Army. He was soon on the move again. He had a spirit of adventure and curiosity and took an kopportunity to join the Indian Army, to be a different kind of stranger asa member of an imperial Army, culturally and ethnically diverse. He was interested in the different world around him, including learning Hindi. He remained in the Indian Army until 1946, working and fighting alongside what are now Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi soldiers, firstly on the Afghan border, and later in WW2, in Somalia and North Africa. Then he move to Berkshire and later Somerset.

 

I could write more of migration stories in my own life, and those of my relatives past and present, and I expect many of you would have your own stories of migration in your families.

 

Migration is part of our human story. There are all kinds of reasons for moving, both within one’s own country and in going to another. There are forces that drive people away and those that draw in to abetter and safer future. But there is also a cost for migrants, like the loss of home, family and friends. In the new home there will bedisorientationfrom the different expectations and habitsaround one, a different language, and various degrees of rejection and hostility from some of one’s new neighbours and colleagues, and there is often confusionof one’s identity.For the country the migrant leaves, there will be a loss of the young, ambitious, gifted, and educated. This is devastating to countries that are poor and war torn. For the receiving country immigration carries an influx of fresh, ambitious,and sometimes well educated members. Negatively there will be pressures on services, housing, and degrees of social unrest.

 

Iwonder, is migration and the mixing of peoples part of God’s desire for humanity? Perhaps, or it depends… What do you think? God commands Adam to go and populate the world and there are many stories of migration of individuals and peoples throughout our Scriptures for a whole host of reasons, causing all the gains and losses I have described.  What God makes clear in the commands and stories is that when people do arrive, or need a new safe home, then people must hold out a hand of welcome and support that our new members might make a new home. And God’s vision for eternity is one of humanity, in all of its diversity drawn together by God as one.

 

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
   a feast of rich food

 

To help us think about all these issues more deeply, on a future Sunday morning  we are going to welcome two members of our Oldham community, Fazal Rahim and Mufti Hilal to our Eucharists to talk about their own migrant experience here in Oldham.

 

James


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