The theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 18-25 January, was ‘they showed us unusual kindness.’ Taken from Acts 28:2, this draws on the story of St Paul finding safety in Malta after a shipwreck. Paul endured a perilous journey and yet he was confident that the mission of God continued through him. This narrative is a classic drama of humanity confronted by the terrifying power of the elements and yet Paul was never without hope.
As we gathered together in prayer, we reflected on the many faith traditions sharing in these same reflections during this important week and felt that we should always take time to work together in unity. St Paul and his companions went through a rough time on the sea and the very same places named in Acts (27:1, 28:1), sadly, also feature in the stories of modern migrants. In other parts of the world, many are facing equally dangerous journeys by land and sea to escape natural disasters, warfare and poverty. Their lives are at the mercy of immense and coldly indifferent forces, not only natural, but also political, economic and human.
We spoke openly about human indifference which takes various forms: the indifference of those who sell places on boats which are not safe to desperate people; the indifference of the decision not to send out rescue boats; and the indifference of turning migrant ships away and not welcoming deserving people into our countries.
The week of prayer, we concluded, was a ‘wake-up call’ reminding us that if we confess to our Christian origins, then it is our duty to welcome a stranger. As Christians we are challenged by the story of migrants and others who look to us for help at this moment in time. Do we collude with the cold forces of indifference or do we try to show ‘unusual kindness’ and become witnesses to God’s loving providence to all people by the kindness and hospitality we offer to others? As St Mother Teresa once remarked, ‘Not all of us can do great things but we can do small things with great love.’
Fr Gerry Devlin, Chaplain