Advent Sunday: I woke and listened to Sunday Worship on Radio 4 from Cardiff, recognising the voices of friends Roy Jenkins and Susan Stevenson reflect on finding hope in the wilderness.
Remembering the words of John Muir, founder of the National Parks in the States that he would “rather be in the mountains thinking of God, than in church thinking about the mountains” we went for a lovely, quiet, reflective walk in the grounds of Conyngham Hall and by the River Nidd in Knaresborough.
The winter in its stark beauty longs for spring and new life. The prophet Isaiah described the people of Israel walking in darkness who shall see a great light.
My heart and prayers reach out to all those who live in darkness. Like the 5,000 people who are locked up in one of the 11 UK detention centres; men, women and children, incarcerated in conditions that have repeatedly been condemned by the United Nations and other human rights groups. There is clear evidence that the present Government is creating a hostile environment, sweeping up, detaining and deporting hundreds of people with little regard for their basic human rights. Two thirds of those imprisoned have no criminal record and have been on average in the UK for over 10 years.
The barbaric attitudes, policies and actions sanctioned by the Government are a scar on conscience of Britain and described by Andrew Mitchell, the former International Development Secretary as a “dystopian stain on our democracy”. 5,321 EU nationals were forcibly removed in the first nine months of this year, a 13% increase and the highest since records began.
Marcin Gwozdzinski, a 28 year old Polish man, made a final plea for help. Begging with officials inside Harmondsworth immigration removal centre, he told them he could no longer cope. Distressed he asked for help from those who held him captive.
“He was crying, begging for help from the guards, telling them to call an ambulance, that his mental health was an emergency,” said another detainee. His translator said, “They told him he would get no help and to stop calling for an ambulance….He broke down like a baby. Still they did nothing.” Within hours he had taken his own life. His death was one of several suicides in a month in our UK detention centres.
Tonight I went to an Advent carol service, ( and didn’t think about any mountains) led by young people who at one point in the service asked us focus on one of the lights in the church building and pray for someone. So I prayed for those whom I will probably never meet who we as a nation have forced to lanquish in detention centres, who are denied acccess to help and whose futures are bathed in fear and uncertainty.
For those who walk in today’s darkness, here and throughout the world, I pray that the light of Christ may dawn to dispel the misery, end the suffering and bring hope to all who despair.
O come. O come Emmanuel….. Disperse the gloomy clouds of night… and death’s dark shadows put to flight… and close the path to misery.