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Welcoming The Stranger

Updated: Sep 8, 2018

We are reminded today in reading the letter of St James that pure unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father is this: coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world. Widows and orphans were the most vulnerable people in Jewish society when St James was writing.

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Be an advocate

Who are the most vulnerable people in our society? I am sure we can name several groups. Certainly, one of the most vulnerable are refugees and migrants. The displacement of people in our world today because of wars, economic disparity and ecological catastrophes is nothing less than tragic.

Just this week, we have heard about migrant workers here in New Zealand being paid less than the minimum wage. It’s out and out exploitation of a people already feeling insecure, suffering from huge culture shock and trying to make their way in a foreign land. I am encouraged to hear that the multinational company involved is being penalised for their unjust actions.

How are we with those who are less fortunate than we are? What attitudes do we catch ourselves expressing? How do we respond? There are plenty of false values held out by the world that we need to guard against? Does the faith we hold precious make us any different to the person we know who has no faith? Do we act differently? Our religion is about having big hearts concerned for things that really matter. It’s a lived faith that wants to make a difference in people’s lives. Welcoming the stranger is one of the ways we can make that difference. I know in many of our parishes and work places we have people from different countries who are making a wonderful contribution to our society. Many are still trying to gain residency after years of effort. I am inspired by those in our Churches living their faith and standing alongside people in this precarious position and acting as advocates.

I don’t profess to be an expert on immigration and I know some cases are questionable but when people from different cultures form friendships and strong bonds after some time living and working here our society is the better for it and I believe some of the rules and regulations concerning immigration are simply unjust, unhelpful and create unnecessary obstacles for vulnerable people needing our support.

I was deeply moved by a story told me by a woman who has lived in this country for 20 years and still has not been able to gain residency. Her husband was prepared to return to their homeland if it meant she and their son could stay here. He was prepared to make this sacrifice out of love for them. I was inspired to write the song, ‘Love is Prepared’ from my latest album 'Making Music To Your Name'. Click on Track 4 to listen to the full track for the coming week.

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