When James Nevelle, a documentary film maker, attempted to travel across South America with no money, he found that people were surprisingly willing to help. Even in the UK he found the kindness of strangers “awesome”, with people responding to him with offers of food, accommodation, or to pay his next fare, once he’d explained his mission.
When confronted by another person in need, our basic human instinct is usually to be kind and to help in whatever way we can. Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) highlights the generous compassion of the foreigner towards the unfortunate victim.
However, this instinct to help often fails when we are confronted by a larger group of needy people, often because of fear, whether real or imagined. In the parable, fellow countrymen of the stricken traveller ‘pass by on the other side’, ignoring his plight.
The rhetoric surrounding the current refugee crisis (and indeed, the EU Referendum) is being expressed in terms of protecting our borders and maintaining our economic security. Little consideration is being given to what we can do to help people who, simply because they were born in a different country, are much less fortunate than ourselves.
There are no simple answers to these issues. The fact that they seem beyond our personal ability to solve perhaps explains why we find it difficult to respond with the same compassion we would show to an individual.
Yet we can achieve a great deal when we work together. During Christian Aid Week, Wetherby folk responded generously, raising several thousand pounds to help alleviate the difficulties so many people face every day: food shortages, disease and lack of medical resources, flooding, earthquakes, etc. Few will have given a large sum, but together they add up to make a real difference to others.
Chairman of Churches Together in Wetherby, Linton & Collingham.