Lest We Forget...
Monday, May 4th
Image posted on Facebook by a friend who supports refugees in Calais
This next weekend we are set to remember what happened 75 years ago on VE Day. That was also the year that the United Nations was formed, arising out of the need for peaceful cooperation after the traumatic events of WW2.
I will find it difficult to celebrate 'victory' anywhere in 2020. Since 1945 we have seen extremist attitudes of greed, self-centredness and xenophobia countered by a sense of our common humanity, and compassion and demands for justice for the underprivileged.worldwide. Sadly, in 2020, we are experiencing the rise of nationalism, racism and many of the inhuman actions we thought we had learned to abhor.
What is making matters worse is that the current pandemic is enabling national governments to cover up their treatment of those they see as 'undesirables' beneath a total focus on internal crises. We hear little these days of the plight of refugees in the middle east or far eat - or even those stuck in North West France, waiting to get a boat to Britain.
In 1989, the United Nations agreed a Convention which included the rights of children wherever they lived. Article 22 said to young people that:
1. If you are forced to leave your country, you will have the right to be considered a refugee. You will be protected by International Law (laws that are shared by every country) and by this Convention, whether you are alone, with your parents or with other adults.
2. Countries and international organizations will have to help you and look after you. They will have to help you find your parents and your family. If your family is not found, others will look after you and you will not be left alone.
I live in a city (Sheffield) which calls itself a City of Sanctuary. But at present I also live in a country which is turning its back on many children and their families who are seeking asylum in Britain, but finding themselves less than welcome.
Bringing a child into the centre of a discussion group, Jesus once said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble!
That seems pretty drastic. So be it! I will feel much more ready to celebrate 75 years of hard won freedom when it has been won for everyone, everywhere. Until then, I will try not to overlook hungry and homeless children here and overseas in my anxiety for my own well-being in 2020 Britain.
The Day the War Came - Nicola Davies
The day war came there were flowers on the window sill and my father sang my baby brother back to sleep. My mother made my breakfast, kissed my nose and walked with me to school.
That morning I learned about volcanoes, I sang a song about how tadpoles turn at last to frogs. I made a picture of myself with wings. Then, just after lunch, while I watched a cloud shaped like a dolphin, war came. At first, just like a spattering of hail a voice of thunder… then all smoke and fire and noise, that I didn’t understand.
It came across the playground. It came into my teacher’s face. It brought the roof down. and turned my town to rubble. I can’t say the words that tell you about the blackened hole that had been my home. All I can say is this: war took everything war took everyone I was ragged, bloody, all alone.
I ran. Rode on the back of trucks, in buses; walked over fields and roads and mountains, in the cold and mud and rain; on a boat that leaked and almost sank and up a beach where babies lay face down in the sand. I ran until I couldn’t run until I reached a row of huts and found a corner with a dirty blanket and a door that rattled in the wind But war had followed me. It was underneath my skin, behind my eyes, and in my dreams. It had taken possession of my heart.
I walked and walked to try and drive war out of myself, to try and find a place it hadn’t reached. But war was in the way that doors shut when I came down the street It was in the way the people didn’t smile, and turned away.
I came to a school. I looked in through the window. They were learning all about volcanoes And drawing birds and singing. I went inside. My footsteps echoed in the hall I pushed the door and faces turned towards me but the teacher didn’t smile. She said, there is no room for you, you see, there is no chair for you to sit on, you have to go away. And then I understood that war had got here too.
I turned around and went back to the hut, the corner and the blanket and crawled inside. It seemed that war had taken all the world and all the people in it. The door banged. I thought it was the wind. But a child’s voice spoke “I brought you this,” she said “so you can come to school.” It was a chair. A chair for me to sit on and learn about volcanoes, frogs and singing And drive the war out of my heart. She smiled and said “My friends have brought theirs too, so all the children here can come to school” Out of every hut a child came and we walked together, on a road all lined with chairs. Pushing back the war with every step.
Mother, Father God,
We know how you feel about children - theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Help us to turn the living hell of so many refugees into the heaven of a welcoming world where there is a chair for everyone.
Photo by K M Asad: Rohingia children queuing for food at Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh.