Monday, 27 July 2009

Strangers in a strange land

I recently managed to find a copy of Jessamyn West's A Quaker Reader, a collection of all kinds of classic (and more unusual) Quaker texts by one of my favourite authors. I've been reading a lengthy extract from George Fox's Journal, and these few sentences struck me very forcibly: I was walking upon the top of the bank there came several poor people, travellers, that I saw were in necessity; and they gave them nothing but said they were cheats. But when they were gone in to their breakfast it grieved me to see such hard-heartedness amongst professors [ie, believers] that I ran after the poor people a matter of a quarter of a mile and gave them some money.

I read this the day after putting together the newsletter for our Meeting, which included a very moving report from a Friend who works with asylum seekers in Sunderland, UK, and who is supported by our Meeting in this. Her report drew my attention to the release of a document prepared by the Quaker organisation, The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

"Still Destitute" brings attention to the appalling conditions experienced by people who have been denied asylum in the UK, often for entirely incorrect reasons, but who cannot be returned to their home countries. They are stranded here without the right to housing, education, work, benefits, healthcare or legal representation. Please read the report - it is shaming that such a situation should be allowed to build up in a country which is almost entirely populated by the offspring of asylum seekers, economic migrants and outsiders.

Regardless of what the far right may think, we are not a 'pure race'. If you are not of unmixed Celtic or Pictish blood, you are not an ethnic Briton. We are all mixtures of so many people - Angles, Saxons, Danes, Romans, Normans, Huguenot weavers, displaced persons from all over the world. Our very language shows that.

Asylum seekers are not 'other'. They are not 'cheats'. They are us. They are human. And they deserve to be treated as human.

We can't all work with asylum seekers, but we can all give financial support to those who do. And we can remind people who speak of them as though they were little more than animals that there, but for chance, go you, and me, and our families and friends.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Back soon

The last couple of weeks have been very stressful for a variety of reasons, so I'm taking this week off from blogging. I'll be back next Monday, though!

Monday, 13 July 2009

I love it when a plan comes together

I am a great believer in Romans 8:28 - "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God" (KJV - I usually use the NIV, but some phrases from my childhood with the KJV just stick!). Time and again I have found that apparently unpleasant things that I have experienced have helped me at a later date, or have enabled me to be empathetic (or even positively useful) to other people.

I've had two excellent examples of this today. My brother has been awarded a benefit he was entitled to, and one of my friends has had her benefits and level of assistance reassessed, in her favour. Both of them came to me for advice and support, and, because of all the pitfalls and problems I have experienced while trying to get the correct benefits and level of help for my disability, I was able to be really helpful to them, and enable them to get the help they need.

I've also been asked to speak on my experience of Quaker Worship at the Quaker Quest my Meeting is running this October. I may be speaking via webcam, but it's possible I may be able to get there in person :)

It's wonderful to find I can still help other people, when so much of my life is about having to accept help from others!

Also, many but not all of my readers will be aware of the One&Other project currently taking place in London. The artist Anthony Gormley is organising 100 days of public participation in art, by randomly selecting applicants for one-hour stints, 24 hours a day, on an empty plinth in Trafalgar Square. Between 5 and 6pm BST on July 16, the occupier of the plinth will be

Monday, 6 July 2009

Worn down

We have been experiencing a bit of a heatwave in the last few days. Predictably, this has had a bad effect on my health - the humidity makes my breathing worse, and poor sleep affects everything else. Thankfully, today we have had rain, and the temperatures are lower, so I hope to improve again.

It prompted a poem - not a happy or easy one, but a truthful one:


fists of fire around my spine

my breath rasps

fear of falling
as my stick slips

the bed a cliff I cannot climb

one hour since I got up