I’ve been away on holiday, and last Thursday we visited Norwich. The main reason was so that I could visit St. Julian’s Church, but also to revisit Norwich Cathedral which is one of my favourite cathedrals. Between visiting the two we popped into Norwich’s second cathedral, the Catholic Cathedral of St John the Baptist. (Pity the rest of my family who faithfully accompanied me on this church-crawl!)
As we were living, I spied a memorial to the Polish men and women of East Anglia who gave their lives during the Second World War under an icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa.As I read the image and looked at the text, I was aware that I was tearing up. I do not know much about the Polish community in East Anglia, but what is clear is that like the vast majority of ‘immigrant’ communities, they contributed vastly to this nation.
So why the tears? Maybe it was the tweet I had seen the previous day:
An elderly couple just told me: “try and get your children to shut up or go back where you came from”. It was supposed to be a lovely family day out on Liverpool Albert Docks. And now I just feel my face burning and I’m holding back tears. (Dr Pragya Agarwal)
Sadly Dr Agarwal’s experience seems to be becoming more common. This morning, Professor Tanja Bueltmann who campaigns for EU citizens in the UK, tweeted the following thread (with apologies for the language):
Waiting at the airport for the final flight home. I decided to read my emails. After a week away my inbox looks like a hate fest, each email outdoing the next. Here’s a small selection …
“Boris Johnson will take us out on 31 October and then we will come for traitors like you.”
“We will leave the EU and than [sic] Britain will be a real global power again. So shut up you piece of s**t and leave”
“You need to be sent back to Germany. All the rapefugees there will do with you what you deserve.”
“We won’t be stopped by a Nazi bitch like you.”
“There is no place for you here. All foreigners out.”
“You are nothing more than a stupid German slut.”
“Remoaning traitors like you will pay.”
“You’re an ugly foreign bitch. This is our country.”
“Shit is nicer than a German whore like you.”
… Nothing says “welcome home” quite like any of these …
Sadly, whilst this is going on government ministers like Priti Patel and William Rees Mogg continue to spread disinformation, distortions and downright lies about immigration as part of ‘Operation Sell No-Deal Brexit.’ Of course in the process they increase enmity against those who choose to make Britain their home – in the current toxic climate the scapegoating of groups of people by politicians/the press can have unpleasant consequences.
Of course, in 21st century Britain such abuse is not reserved solely for immigrants. As Mark Arnold observes many disabled people are suffering similar vitriol. For instance, one disability campaigner I follow on twitter reports how a total stranger approached him on a garage forecourt and told him that “Boris is going to deal with all you f…..g disabled scroungers!” Arnold writes
For many disabled people, and often for their families and other allies too, life can feel like being a candle in a hurricane of hate. So much intolerance, vitriol and aggression to deal with every single day from a society that, generally, would rather that disabled people were not around, out of sight, disappeared. Just in the last week or so, I’ve lost count of the number of social media posts, blogs, or conversations I’ve seen or been a part of that have shared how this societal hatred is endemic.
So once again today I weep for what this nation has become and weep for the ways in which I have failed to speak out.
Look around you; can you see?
Times are troubled, people grieve.
See the violence, feel the hardness;
all my people, weep with me.
Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison.
Walk among them, I’ll go with you.
Reach out to them with my hands.
Suffer with me, and together
we will serve them, help them stand’.
Forgive us, Father; hear our prayer.
We would walk with you anywhere,
through your suff’ring, with forgiveness;
take your life into the world.
(Jodi Page Clark)