WDC debate on Syrian refugees

Just over 2000 years ago, a baby, his mother and father fled to Egypt from oppression and murder in Palestine.  

Just think if he had been born in Syria today.  Full text of Labour Councillor Ahmed's closing speech in the debate last night.

Chairman, Councillors

 

I am not going to attempt to respond to the many views and comments made by members.   Labour Councillors have recognised the practical difficulties of helping refugees in the current climate.   However, we believe that when people are dying, you help.  You may only be able to provide a bit of help.  But you help.

 

I am going to do three things.

 

First, I am going to respond to four words which I have heard repeated over and over again during the past weeks.

 

Those four words are “Charity begins at home.”

 

I looked up “Charity begins at home” – and you know it doesn’t mean

that you should look after your own family, friends and neighbours first

and only then think about being kind to other people.  The original meaning was that children learn about charity in the home. 

 

So what do our children (and our grandchildren) learn if we use our family and friends and neighbours and countrymen as a pretext for not giving help to strangers?  

 

Well, they learn that charity is something you only give to people who are like yourself. You don’t give charity to strangers.

 

Second, I would like to pay tribute to a number of people.   I would like to applaud the efforts of the thousands of volunteers who are helping refugees as we debate this issue – providing food and clothes in lorries from Wycombe to refugees on the continent.

 

I would also like to applaud the efforts of the churches, the mosques, the synagogues and other religious and community organisations who have spoken out publicly, united in wanting to offer a welcome to refugees to Wycombe.

 

I would also like to applaud the efforts of the small group of volunteers who have campaigned to persuade you to take refugees from Syria.  They have presented Council with a petition.  They have offered to meet with Councillors and officials to discuss their experience of practical solutions used elsewhere.  They have offered support and help for the refugees when they arrive.  They have lobbied the Bucks Free Press and other media.  They have provided Councillors with information and briefing.   And in all of this they have been polite, professional and constructive as well as passionate in their cause.

 

Third and finally, a story.   It’s a story you all know.  It’s a story about a Jew travelling to Jericho who is beaten, robbed and left for dead.   Two of his fellow countrymen – a priest and a Levite – see the man and pass by on the other side.   A Samaritan, from a race normally despised by the Jews in those days, stopped, bandaged the Jew’s wounds, put him on his donkey, took him to an inn and paid the innkeeper to take care of him.  

 

This is of course the parable of the Good Samaritan.  It is a story about being a neighbour to strangers. Christians are told to go and do likewise.

 

Muslims are also required to help the stranger.  It is a fundamental part of our faith and our culture. In fact, all major religions teach that we should treat others as we would wish to be treated ourselves.

 

When the tsunami hit in 2004, a quarter of a million people died. Tens of thousands of British people were caught in the flood. And these British people were helped.  They were helped by Indonesians, Sri Lankans, Indians, Thais, and Somalis – mainly poor people in poor countries, many of whom had lost everything.  

 

There are many people in Wycombe like that - Good Samaritans, compassionate people who unselfishly help others, including strangers.

 

Tonight you are asked to be Good Samaritans. 

 

Just over 2000 years ago, a baby, his mother and father fled to Egypt from oppression and murder in Palestine.   So did many other refugees.  Amazingly the Egyptians did not insist on having all the infrastructure in place before allowing the families to settle. 

 

In a few weeks, the Christmas festivities will celebrate the birth of that baby. 

 

Just think if he had been born in Syria today.

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