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14.07.2017

No Place Like Home? | Connecting with Culture

The morning the result of the Brexit referendum was announced, emotions were running high at my daughters’ school gates.

The Polish mother of Daughter Two’s best friend wept as she told a group of us how her son, age 6, had asked at breakfast whether England would change its mind if he said sorry.

A little over a year later, the fate of our European residents remains unsure. Theresa May’s latest proposals were described by the European Parliament’s chief negotiator as a ‘damp squib,’ creating new red tape and ongoing uncertainty for millions. What we can be certain of is that we are not even close to final agreement.

As high level wrangling rumbles on, individual lives are under huge pressure. Recently I caught a snippet of an interview on Radio 4 with Elena Remigi, the editor of a new book, In Limbo: Brexit testimonies from EU citizens in the UK. ‘The leitmotif running through all the stories,’ she said, ‘is the question “Where is my home now? Am I still welcome here or is my home the country I left all those years ago?”’

There are few questions more profound than ‘where is my home?’ The French mystic and activist Simone Weil wrote in 1943, ‘To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognised need of the human soul.’ Whatever else the Brexit vote means, for European nationals who trustingly embedded their roots in our soil, it means the ground is no longer firm beneath them.

As our friends, neighbours, and colleagues live through this upheaval we might feel helpless and inadequate, but there are ways we can offer support. Here are five:

  1. We can take time to listen to their stories. Telling our stories breaks down feelings of isolation and gives others a glimpse into our reality.
  2. We can communicate a loving welcome to counteract the messages of rejection coming from some quarters.
  3. We can pray, both for those caught up in the fray and for those responsible for policy decisions.
  4. We can add our voice to the debate, putting pressure on politicians when they are in danger of forgetting the human faces behind the negotiations.
  5. We can make our churches, our houses, our workplaces. and our communities places of safety and belonging and in so doing, point people to the God who offers all who seek him an eternal home.

Jo Swinney
Jo is the author of ‘Home: the quest to belong’ (Hodder & Stoughton). She grew up in Portugal and France, and currently lives in London with her American husband and their two daughters.

Comments

  1. Hello everyone. I would agree that it is crucially important that we remain as hospitable and welcoming in character as possible to everyone who comes to live among us. This is reflective of the character of our God, who ‘loves the alien and the foreigner living amongst us.’ I am frequently ashamed of British attitudes and sometimes wonder why people from other countries are still so determined to live here, given the reception they often have to deal with.
    All that said, I don’t necessarily think that ‘a sense of belonging’ is irrevocably tied to membership of the EU. To insist that one is dependant on the other may be to conflate two sets of values; one political, the other moral and social. We are part of a common humanity whether or not the E.U. continues to exist, or had never existed. We are called to love our neighbour as ourselves, wherever we encounter them, and in whatever context. I sincerely pray that, should Brexit be complete, we will not lose this vital component of being welcoming. Would we not wish the same of other countries, should we find ourselves living there?

    By Christopher Dean - 14th July 2017
  2. I know this is a highly emotive subject, but I can well remember in the late 1950s and early 1960s when as a language student I spent lengthy periods in Germany, France and Italy. They include some of my happiest memories of making great friends and finding Christian support in young people’s fellowships in churches in Westphalia, the Lorraine and Genoa. I owe a huge debt to them all as I was a new Christian on a steep learning curve! Happy days!

    By David Shillitoe - 14th July 2017
  3. Hello Jo, Your article on home and Ruth Clemence review of your book have inspired us to purchase a copy and to study it. We thank God for your life, faith and work praying in the Spirit of Psalm 121 for you.
    We wonder if you have read (Bishop) John Inge’s book, A Christian Theology of Place? In terms of the temporal and eternal rooted-ness of us embodied souls, they make a great compliment to each other.
    Eternal Regards, Bill and Margaret Saunders

    By Bill Saunders - 14th July 2017
  4. The hardest thing is the uncertainty for those who are immigrants ir refugees. The 5 things Jo suggests apply whether we meet immigrants, refugees or individuals/families moving into out cities/towns/villages.

    By Cheryl - 14th July 2017
  5. This article really struck a chord with me, having lived in India, Nepal, Thailand and the UK. Time overseas has always made me even more grateful for home, but it has also given me a huge compassion for those on the edge. I run a mums and tots group at our local church and we also have a local university near by. As Christians we are called to care for the widow, orphan and foreigner. Every week I see a team from our church doing exactly that as we welcome wives of students at our local university, people moving to the area, refugees and Mums and Dads learning what it is to transition from full time work to full time caring for children. We have a real privilege to love these dear folks and signpost them to their true home – which can only be found in Jesus.

    By Amanda Marshall - 14th July 2017
  6. thank you Jo, I love this; especially your starting quote about the 6yr old saying sorry! Thank you for seeing the difficulty. I came to this country in 1981, married a UK citizen, have 3 British children and worked here ever since, but never saw the need to become a British citizen as I am happily German by citizenship even though I have loved living here because of my family. But NOW I have to, hoping it will work out, because there is no knowing what’s next… Yes, I have found BREXIT very upsetting. The LORD spoke clearly into this situation straightaway by saying, “you ARE a citizen of heaven and belong to MY kingdom; you ARE at home with me”; that keeps me sane underneath.

    By Sabine Burningham - 14th July 2017
  7. I feel the same living UP north Viz a vie the south including LICC’s

    approach to meetings etc.

    By richard bibby - 14th July 2017
  8. Unfortunately I detect more of the same old scare mongering that issues forth from leftist mouth pieces every time there is a conservative push back against the overwhelming Post Modern orthodoxy, which is nothing less than cultural Marxism in disguise.
    I suppose I should be used to it by now but it still depresses me every time I read of such things in ‘Christian’ forums. Still, quoting the mystic anarchist Weil as a source should prepare the reader for ‘alternative’ perspectives.
    To infer that all immigrants are going to be expelled from England on the completion of Brexit is nonsense of the highest order and shameful to suggest. Legal migrants are just that, LEGAL. If someone is an illegal migrant then it is proper and just that they be returned to where they come from. As for the poppycock of a ‘theology of place’ consider the biblical response to that: 1 Peter 2:11 ” Dear Friends I urge you, as ALIENS AND STRANGERS IN THE WORLD……..” I suggest that we try not to make ourselves too comfortable in this world because then you might become ‘of it’ rather than merely ‘in it’.

    By Mike McMeekan - 17th July 2017

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