So the EU Referendum is only a week away, and there has been a great deal to listen to from many politicians from Leave and Remain camps – are you confused? I certainly am!
Yet I find the rhetoric that we hear from politicians and most of the media very disturbing over the issue of immigration. In the Observer some time back a survey by the thinktank British Future, spoke of how there is more openness towards the stranger, “rather than being overwhelmingly hostile to immigration and immigrants. Most people appear to hold far more nuanced views.”
If this is true, thank goodness. Yet what we hear often is such a hardened view that is driven by fear.
So have Christians something positive to add to this debate? In the Old Testament we get some commands from God. In Leviticus 19 it says that we should treat the foreigner as if they were a native born Israelite, and love them as we love ourselves. It also says in Deuteronomy, "you shall love the stranger for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." And in the New Testament St Paul in Romans speaks about extending "hospitality to strangers".
And of course, Jesus, as well as many other Biblical heroes, was a refugee, displaced and living in exile.
So Christians have a prophetic voice, a different message to what we are hearing from some of our politicians. A message based on fairness and compassion that honours the stranger among us. I wonder what that would look like in our churches and communities?
Rev Phil Stone
Director of Scargill Movement and Leader of the Scargill Community