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The Editorial

Migrants and the Tunnel?

I was once offered a job with the Ministry of Defence.

John Benton, Editor

Figure Image

It was in the days when the Channel Tunnel was first being proposed. At the interview I was asked what I thought about the implications of the tunnel for British security. In terms of conventional warfare it is not really a problem. But this summer the Channel Tunnel has become a gigantic headache for the government with enormous numbers of migrants desperate to get into the UK.

Security and compassion

Eurotunnel disclosed 37,000 attempts to breach security measures at its French terminal so far this year, with probably about 150 illegal immigrants reaching Britain each night as stowaways in vehicles. Lorries are parked up for days on the M20 in ‘Operation Stack’ in Kent because of the difficulties. This causes huge hold ups for trade and holiday makers.

As Christians we find ourselves torn. It seems as though half the world’s population wants to come and live here and there simply isn’t the room or the resources. Yet, on the other hand many migrants are fleeing not only economic hardship but also tyrannical and sometimes chaotic regimes in their countries of origin. They need compassion. Added to this some of those seeking to enter the UK could well be active Islamist terrorists. There is no easy solution to the problem.

Home to roost

A number of thoughts occur. First, so many people wish to come to the West because we have both freedom and prosperity. These blessings have their roots in the Bible. The West may now be post-Christian, but it was the gospel which historically provided the social climate in which both democracy and entrepreneurial creativity could emerge.

But second, sadly, there is always a worm in the bud in our world, and there followed the subordination of Christian teaching to the raw pursuit of wealth (R.H. Tawney’s thesis in his classic Religion and the Rise of Capitalism). With nominal Christianity and then secularism, empires were conquered by the West with the aim of domination and exploitation. (Of course, greed is not confined to the West.) A report last Autumn explained that 10% of the world’s population own 87% of global wealth and the poorest half of the world’s population own less than 1% of total wealth*. We are in that top 10%. Such drastic inequalities fuel the massive migration which we now face.

Thirdly, are the sins of our materialistic society coming home to roost? We have amassed wealth in the last days (James 5.3) and especially in recent years, influenced by liberals who enjoy the freedoms of the UK, have been unwilling to get too involved in fighting for the freedom of people in other states. We have too readily believed the politically correct lie that to intervene to ensure basic human rights in other lands is ‘cultural imperialism.’ It all flows from a world view with no absolute moral values. Do we slam the door and hope the migrants will go away?

Surely we ought to be making real efforts to improve the lot of other countries. Here’s a wild idea. Why not introduce a kind of compulsory national service for young people – not in the armed forces but in aid and development work overseas? It might not only be a leg up for needy nations but also educate our youngsters to what really matters in life. Perhaps we should have been doing something like this years ago?

* The Guardian, 14 October 2014

Editor’s note: Sadly the cancer in the African lad mentioned in August’s commentary has spread and he may have to lose his arm up to the elbow. Do pray for him. JEB