The Anglican Church will learn, I hope, the harsh lesson the Catholic Church has finally begun to understand, that to interfere too much in the daily minutiae of political debate is to produce a contradictory, confused and ultimately meaningless flood of well-intentioned platitudes. There comes a time when what is said is simply ignored or rejected. The present Pope is indeed experiencing this- He is not necessarily saying the wrong things- he is simply reaping the whirlwind set in motion by his predecessors and his world-wide congregation has tired or what he is talking about.
It is really better to keep quiet.
Today, Archbishop Justin Welby condemns the government for reneging on a decision never taken, namely to accept 3000 children as refugees to the UK. Of course, I warmly encourage our councils and our country to open their arms to these children and to refugees of all ages, but I recognise that there must always be a difference between what we want to do and the way we allocate the resources we have available.
Last year, about this time, the Archbishop made an extraordinary statement that it was not racist to complain about migration. I thought he was utterly wrong then and I still think so now, but his pronouncement today seems to be completely contradictory. The only logical conclusion is that, in the absence of a credible opposition in the House of Commons, the Archbishop has taken it on himself to play the role so resolutely abandoned by Jeremy Corbyn. Sadly, this is not the office to which the Archbishop has been appointed.
This is what he said last year:
He said that to be anxious about “one of the greatest movements of people in human history” was “very reasonable”. He added: “There is a tendency to say ‘those people are racist’, which is just outrageous, absolutely outrageous.” This was noted to echo the claim that “it is not racist to impose limits on immigration”
At the time, there was a good deal written about the difference between a refugee and a migrant, though in fact that distinction is a legal one, requires a lengthy process, and is rarely established at the border.
But this is what he said this year, today:
“Our country has a great history of welcoming those in need, particularly the most vulnerable, such as unaccompanied children.
“Refugees, like all people, are treasured human beings made in the image of God who deserve safety, freedom and the opportunity to flourish. Jesus commands us to care for the most vulnerable among us.”
“I very much hope that the Government will reconsider this decision, and work with church groups and others to find a sustainable and compassionate solution that allows those most in need to find sanctuary in our country.”
I agree with the sentiments he expresses but his own U-turn is astonishing. Ironically, the Coventry Telegraph headlines its article on this subject: Archbishop of Canterbury criticises U-turn on child refugees scheme. Something here about the pot and the kettle!
Leave the talking to someone else.
There is an opportunity to question the Government’s decision, my Lord Archbishop, but not with this dodgy track-record. It is simply unbelievable and it cheapens the debate.
Last week, I wrote to Lord Dubs to express my concerns that his amendment had been defeated to take into Britain 3000 Syrian children who have already made it to mainland Europe. The Government is prepared to take children directly from Syrian refugee camps by 2020, but I think this rather misses the moral issue and the urgency involved. This is not really a numbers’ game. We cannot- or should not- pick and choose how we do our charity and how we respond to those in need. When someone turns up on the doorstep asking for help, I think this is a God-sent opportunity, and it is also of course a political hot-potato. We can take it or leave it- that is about us, and that aspect of charity has always seemed a bit self-centred. Instead, we should ask- how about the Refugee child? How many parents can really imagine what it would be like to know their own children are stumbling across a foreign continent without much hope? I think, very few. We cannot expect others to suffer what we would not.
The 3000 Syrian children are our moral responsibility whether we help them now or not- indeed, more so now Labour is increasingly emerging as a party riddled with anti-semitism. We have to take a stand for what is right. We have to learn from the mistakes of the past.
I also wrote last week to Humza Yousaf. If Westminster will not take the lead on this issue, maybe Scotland will! Lord Dubs was instrumental in Necati’s fight for justice 15 years’ ago and his kind words and support are something I will not forget. While other MPs and Lords wrote to us, Lord Dubs picked up the telephone and called us.
Dubs was also a kindertransport child. When twits in the BBC and senior positions in our society like Livingston, are prepared to misrepresent the details of the rise of Nazi Germany, it is all the more vital that we learn the harsh lessons that history should be teaching us, and we should always listen to a man who has personal experience of that time. Bottom line- we did something but we could have done much more to help Jews in Germany. We cannot change the past but we can certainly do something about the future and our current mealy-mouthed numbers’ game is beneath contempt.
And a small point about self-preservation: if we really want to breed further resentment across the muslim world, then rejecting these children can only help to make things worse and here, instead, is an opportunity to send a message of goodwill. We should be building bridges, not erecting barriers.
26th April 2016
Dear Lord Dubs,
I am writing to express my deep regret that the support for refugee children failed in the Commons last night. I am writing as a current Tory candidate in local elections in Daventry, but also as the partner of Necati Zontul, a man who you kindly helped when our back was against the wall in Greece in 2003. Your amendment yesterday went beyond party politics and was a call to moral responsibility that has been misread by the Home Office and ignored by too many people in my own party. I am afraid History will judge this decision very harshly. If there is anything I can do in the meantime to support the wider campaign to give aid to refugees in need, please do not hesitate to contact me.
I am afraid some time has passed, and I am also standing in local elections next week: the outcome is not a certainty and the former incumbent is a labour councillor I much admire: she has set a standard for local politics that would be very hard to follow.
However, I have been following the amendment of Lord Dubs in the Westminster Parliament, and I have just written to him to express my great regret that this failed last night. You may not be aware of the story of my partner Necati Zontul, who was a torture victim in Greece in 2001. We owe a great debt of gratitude to many MPs and members of the Lords who wrote letters of support at the time. Lord Dubs very much led the way.
I know that you are very supportive of the refugee cause and I wonder if there is any progress that can be made on this issue after the election through the Scottish parliament?
There are plenty of people today barely making ends meet, and there is a huge mass of refugees suddenly penniless on the border of Europe, while at the same time, there is an ever-expanding waistline of “fat cat” executives often controlling the very charities who say they are helping to ease the misery they themselves seem to defy. I hope there is not a whiff of jealousy or envy here (is there a difference?) but while I was sketching our two cats this morning and at the same time, thinking of a couple of lectures I have to write, I found myself wondering about the recent fiasco involving “Save the Children” and the distasteful posting of a scurrilous manga cartoon. The campaign to replace that image and to help is well-underway with the hashtag “Yeswhynot”. I contributed a picture of a cat towards this effort.
I worry that one of my cats is slightly overweight.
It’s cats all round at the moment…
So, I checked the internet, and I was staggered to find that the chief executive, Justin forsyth (an ex-Oxfam man, but also a former labour planner for Tony Blair in No 10) earns £163,000 a year- that is, to put it in persepective, about £20,000 more than David Cameron. Anabel Hoult apparently exceeded her boss in a mix of take-home pay and pensions. I have just started to follow Charlie Elphicke on twitter and he describes this bonus culture as “inappropriate and objectionable.”
There is no doubt these executives can defend their exorbitant salaries, and Forsyth in particular took over at a time of crisis for the charity and while it was going through a nasty merger with merlin, and having drawn him quickly, I must add, he has an engaging smile- but still- it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
As for “fat cats”- the dictionary tells me they would be people with a political bent and lots of money. I do not encourage you to do the maths but, well, miaow!
My attention was drawn today to a Japanese manga image which had been described as “Racist”. I thought initially it was no more racist than something by the brilliant artist Joe Sacco, though the manga picture is based on a young girl who is clearly not smiling in the original photo. There is, though, a hint of a smirk in the manga. I assumed this was style or something.
The original image is at the bottom of this blog
Later, I saw an article about this which translated the Japanese text and I was appalled. So much so that I have re-drawn the image and added my own text here:
The image is based on a photograph of a girl called Judi, aged 6. I have tried to preserve some of the manga style. I hope what I have drawn is sympathetic to the original. This is a very young girl in a tent city. She is there because her family wanted to get her out of the war-zone. This is not her choice. She should command our sympathy, pity, and respect. She does not deserve the ridicule dished out by Ms Hasumi.
In Glasgow, the Scottish MP Humza Yousaf regularly talks about welcoming Refugees.
It seems to me that this is our moral duty and our responsibility as a civilized country. More than that, we must ensure that the Referendum on the EU does not get bogged down, as was the last election, by a debate on immigration. The refugee crisis is set to continue for many years whether we are in or out of Europe and we will miss the opportunity to effect major change and reform in Brussels, or indeed to quit the EU project and forge alliances across Europe independently. 1) We cannot allow racists and bigots to hijack the debate. 2) we need to lead the way in promoting a proper response to the victims of war. 3) our doors must always be open to people in need.
This is what the original advert said in Japanese apparently:
“I want to live a safe and clean life, eat gourmet food, go out, wear pretty things, and live a luxurious life… all at the expense of someone else,” reads the text on the illustration above. “I have an idea. I’ll become a refugee.”
The artist, Toshiko Hasumi removed the picture after a campaign by a Change.org. It is the text that really causes offence here, rather than the image. But once the text is clear, the image itself takes on a new identity- the girl is too aware, she smirks too much. It is deeply disrespectful.
“But I will not apologize no matter what,” she said. “Because unlike in Japan, you’re destined to lose in a court battle overseas once you’ve admitted to your fault.” She went on to say that the image was an attack on economic migrants who are “pursing a safer, more comfortable life in a foreign land under the guise of pitiable asylum seekers.”
The photographer said it was a “shameful misrepresentation of the plight of the Syrian people” and that he was “Shocked + deeply saddened anyone would choose to use an image of an innocent child to express such perverse prejudice,”
Japan will not accept Syrian refugees but has pledged $810 million to aid refugees from Syria and Iraq. Of 5000 asylum seekers who applied last year, Japan accepted 11. This is a start and I know many of my Japanese friends are keen to see more done to help in the crisis. Also, of course, Japan is right to support the countries most affected.
Toshiko Hasumi, however, has a record of questionable behaviour and has apparently written fairly negatively about Korean women who came to Japan especially during the 2nd World war.
Thank God there has been outrage about this in Japan!
I have been speaking to other people who have, like me, been inspired to draw their own tribute to the Syrian girl featured in the original photograph and to post a more uplifting message. Here is a drawing by Kumiko Higashi courtyesy of Takahiro Katsumi:
Here is the english translation:
Wanna let them live safely?
Wanna let them live clean?
Wanna let them dine with their family?
Wanna let them play in schools?
Wanna let them play with their friends?
Wanna let them sleep in places without gunfires?
Wanna let them live in peace without fear of death?
… ALL BY YOUR CONSCIENTIOUS CHOICE?
I GOT IT, HELP A REFUGEE!
This is a POSITIVE COUNTERACTION against the hateful campaign launched by the right-wing manga artist Hasumi Toshiko supporting the Abe Administratin that allow hateful expression go unbound. Why not spread good will instead of hate or animosity? Yes, why not?
Also, here is a version of my picture translated into Japanese: