Shame and Irony

Awoke this morning to find that Northern Ireland was back in the national and international news for all the wrong reasons, with racist attacks in South Belfast having increased to such an extent that around 20 Romanian families (approximately 100 people) had to be evacuated from their homes last night and spend their night in the premises of City Church, about a mile from the area.

There's been lots of coverage on most news media and phone-ins, as well as much blog traffic. As ever I would point you in the direction of Crookedshore, as well as the post by Alan in Belfast, with at least one of the follow-up comments reminding us that most of these people are Roma, rather than ethnic Romanians, noting (without, I trust, seeking to justify their treatment here) that they are not likely to return to Romania itself with any sense of security, because of the persecution that Roma routinely experience there.

I am not going to make any profound statement, except to say that such persecution is a violation of all that scripture has to say about protecting the alien in our midst and practising hospitality (you can look the numerous references up yourselves), and that all of us as churches should stand in solidarity with all those of foreign origin in our midst. I am pleased that it was a church that was used as the place of sanctuary, and that other churches provided food for these families. But we need churches to speak out and stand up so that such places of sanctuary are not needed.

It is ironic that women from my own church are currently in Romania with a cross-community group, engaged in a Habitat for Humanity building project. Their leader, has informed us via facebook that they are all being made very welcome there. So while we build houses for the poor in Romania, we are trying to drive them out of their houses in Belfast...


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