Saturday, 16 December 2017

Help welcome the strangers among us

IT is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…. and also of the party conferences, so we have been regaled

IT is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…. and also of the party conferences, so we have been regaled with all kinds of striking remarks by politicians, some on message and others distinctly off it.

Sifting through these, a common thread is the suggestion that there are “foreigners”, or illegal immigrants, trying to take advantage of the welfare state.

At a time when we are all feeling under financial pressure, it’s all too easy to project fears on to minority groups and believe there are numerous scroungers among those moving to Britain.

When distrust and resentment develops, overtones of racism can become apparent and we do not have to look far to find disturbing examples of where this can lead.

But there are active systems in place to check the validity of claimants and if this is found to be false, action is taken by the authorities. That is why we hear in the news about prosecutions in such cases.

Immigration to Britain is already closely regulated and the vast majority of men and women who come to live here do so legally.

Just like anyone else, they want to be able to work, to support themselves and their families, to pay their way through taxation and to find acceptance in the community.

The widely-used citizenship ceremony is a positive expression of their new status.

They go on to enrich our society in diverse ways, economically, socially and culturally.

Even so, moving to a new country, even temporarily, can also be a lonely and stressful experience.

At such times everyone needs support, advice and to make new friends.

Jesus said: ‘I was a stranger and you took me in…. whenever you did this for the least of my brothers, you did it for me.” (Matthew 25 v 35)

Christians often refer to a “ministry of welcome”, which is extended by the churches in Henley and across the Henley deanery.

Whether it’s an invitation to coffee, a meal or just a friendly chat, let us try to find ways to include and to welcome all strangers in our midst.

AN Apple Day to be held at Cross Lanes Fruit Farm in Mapledurham next Sunday (October 13) from 10am to 5pm. This year, most varieties of apples have produced a good crop and visitors will be able to taste them. The event will also include the annual conker challenge organised by Goring, Woodcote and District Lions Club. Entrance and car parking are free. For more information, visit www.crosslanesfruitfarm.co.uk

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