Summary of the discussion, September 6th
In the news was the case of Mohamed Bangoura, a six year old boy, born in the UK, but stranded in Belgium (with relatives) because the Home Office had revoked his passport, which they said had been issued “in error”, because neither of his parents were legally settled in the UK at the time of his birth. His mother, who lives in Sheffield, claimed she had not received the Home Office letter informing her of their decision. Was this yet another example of the “hostile environment” towards immigrants which has been in place since Theresa May was Home Secretary, and which had swept up many of the “Windrush Generation” in its wake?
Our New Testament reading was the story in Acts chapter 15 of some Jewish Christians who objected to Gentiles being admitted to church membership unless they were required to keep the Jewish Law, including circumcision. The decision went against them, though the dispute rumbled on for a long time (see Paul’s Latter to the Galatians). This was another example of how human groups and communities often find it hard to open their minds to newcomers unless they clearly become “like us”. A recent survey found that nearly half of those interviewed believed that immigration and “multi-culturalism” had undermined “British culture”: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/sep/17/four-in-10-people-think-multiculturalism-undermines-british-culture-immigration
In later centuries, of course, after the Roman Emperor Constantine had transformed the Christian Church from a feared and sometimes persecuted minority into the dominant and established religion of the Empire, the Jews became the feared and despised minority, excluded because they are “not like us”. Many said the rejection they suffered was simply the “curse” they would always have to bear for rejecting and crucifying Christ.
Escalating anti-semitism in Europe, as European peoples struggled to assert their identity as distinct and sovereign independent “nations” (rather than as communities participating in multi-ethnic feudal and medieval “Empires”) led to the birth of Zionism, as some Jews (not all) began to believe that only in the land of Israel could Jews be safe and secure. Some Christians (again not all) saw this as fulfilling “Biblical prophecy”, and gave it their support.
As Russian pogroms and the Nazi Holocaust led to increasing Jewish immigration to the “Holy Land” the rights of Palestinians became a hotly, and often bitterly, debated issue- and remains so today, not only in the Labour Party, but also in the Jewish community itself: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bjj191
Our other reading (1 Kings, chapter 5) was of the treaty of friendship between Solomon, Israel’s king, and Hiram, king of Tyre (today’s Lebanon)- a relationship perhaps to be hoped for today between Israel and its neighbours. But today it cannot be, as verse 3 says, after “the Lord put [his enemies] under his feet”. Peace in Israel/Palestine today can only come though justice for all involved, not by the use of force by one side against the other.