An Asian Christian woman living in London blogging about the everyday issues of religion

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Here Is Someone Who Did 'Go Home'

Home Office 'Go Home' van

Something always comes along to spoil things. The weather has been brilliant, I can plan a day out without worrying about the changing nature of the British summer, Andy Murray has won Wimbledon, a royal heir has been born then...the spoiler happens and it is a humdinger of a nasty. Racism is alive and well. 

The Home Office has set up billboard vans that have been driven around displaying messages calling on illegal immigrants to 'Go home'. It's that familiar old right wing racist chant which manages to merge the contradictions of 'Home Sweet Home' with a 'You Don't Belong Here' message. It's a hark back to the 1970s and 1980s when 'Go Home' was an institutionalised phrase which told people of colour that they did not belong to a Western country and ought to have stayed put in the Southern Hemisphere. 

There has been a campaign of outrage expressed on Twitter about the vans. A funny person going by the name of Pukkah Punjabi decided to take the Home Office up on their offer. He called the number given and asked for a taxi to take him from Harrow to Willesden. The ensuing story is a riot of humour but does not mask the ugliness of the campaign. While the campaign explicitly states that it is targeted at illegal immigrants one gets the feeling that a loathing of all foreigners is subsumed within it; whether they are here legally or not. 

The fear of the foreigner is actively being churned up in the immigration debate that will define, supposedly, which party is most tough on those who don't 'Go Home' and take our jobs. According to a Tory party strategist the message is akin to 'ET Go Home'. I disagree, There is a difference and it is that ET was an out and out alien who was dying on earth and needed to 'Go Home' to survive. Illegal immigrants maybe faceless to the general public and stigmatised as criminal rotters but they are not aliens; they are human beings who are often escaping a violent situation, such as war, in their own countries. To target illegal immigrants in a knee jerk way without looking at foreign policies that create refugees is foolish. Climate change experts are predicting a refugee movement that will be driven by environmental factors. What happens when climate change refugees don't have homes to 'Go Home' to? 

Starring role: Badar in his dashing uniform posting the royal notice

In the midst of all this comes the story of an immigrant who did go home because his visa ran out. The royal footman who helped put up the birth announcement outside Buckingham Palace last week has now left the country. Badar Azim comes from India, studied at Napier University in Edinburgh, worked at Buckingham Palace and experienced a global moment of fame last week. He may have left Britain but he will forever play a starring role in Britain's memory of the day the third in line to the throne was born. Immigrants can be productive. While the vans may refer to 'illegal immigrants I cannot help but be suspicious of the fact that there is a larger message being boomed out which is anti-everybody else. 

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

I Tweet Therefore I Am An Indulged

The Catholic Church may refuse to join the 21st century when it comes to gender recognition, have less children and Gays are human beings issues but has embraced social networking, Twitter to be precise, in an act that can only be described as a coup that even touchy-feely Jesus may not have thought of.

The Catholic Church has a system of 'granted indulgences' whereby allocations are given to people who show remorse over their sinful selves to lessen the time they will have to spend in purgatory. Indulgences are mainly 'granted' (a verb that the Church seems to use)to believers who do things like climb the Sacred Steps in Rome. The updated version of 'granted' ( I don't know if this verb can be conjugated as in 'he grants', they grant' so I am going to stick to 'granted') will apply to the Catholic World Youth Day being held in Rio next week. Those who cannot attend in person for whatever reason (e.g a Catholic family with many children to feed that even a trip to the airport for the children to gawp at planes taking off and landing would be too expensive) and who follow the proceedings live on Twitter will be 'granted' (that word again) an indulgence. The only requirement is that people must pray with 'requisite devotion' while following the live stream.

What I want to know is how the Church will police the 'requisite devotion' part and how much time allowance will be granted? Will it work like the Big Society Time Banks (many of which have folded and there is a lesson there) where people exchanged favours for favours? How will this time be recorded and transmitted to hell so Satan knows when to turn the furnace off? Perhaps there are no furnaces in purgatory. I am getting my theology mixed up in an attempt to understand this confused act of the Vatican which embraces modernity in a way that only makes sense to non-questioning followers. 

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Food Banks Deserve More Than Tin Cans

Poverty can be a humiliating and extremely distressing experience especially in the current political climate where those on welfare are stigmatised and demonised almost on a daily basis. It cannot be easy as it is and it must be pretty galling when someone who is titled, Lord Freud, stands up in a bastion of class symbolism, House of Lords, and uses the word 'charitable' to describe the provision of food banks.

Lord Freud who is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions has special responsibility for welfare reform but denies the causal link between the cuts in jobs, benefits and the decreased ability to pay for food which is rising in costs. When asked about food banks in the House he said: "Local provision that reflects the requirements of local areas is absolutely right. Charitable provision is to be admired and supported."

Given that the number of people who use food banks is rising every week, latest estimate puts this at 500,000, it can hardly be called a 'local areas' problem. Such a high statistic would suggest that the provision of food banks is targetting a national problem. While charitable provision is to be 'admired and supported' let us remember that we are talking about something more than present giving at Christmas time to those who cannot afford to give presents. Food banks offer basis sustenance - food. The clue is in the title. To suggest that such a service is to be 'admired' implies that it is an optional service. Those who would go hungry otherwise will disagree that food banks are an optional service.

Taking this a step further if food banks are an essential services does it also mean that the food which we donate ought to consist of the most basic of foods? The whole welfare debate always suggests that beneficiaries ought to be entitled to a bare minimum and no more as a form of punishment. I think that recipients of food parcels must be sick of carting home tinned foods. Do the poor deserve better? Yes, they do. I often add chocolates, biscuits and other treats to the usual staple donations. Just because one is poor in this day and age does not mean that one has to live as if in a Dickensian world.