prayers for strangers in Calais… and for us

On Tuesday we read a thought-provoking article in the Guardian contrasting the language used (and sense of connection felt) to Cecil the Lion in contrast to the ‘migrants’ in Calais. It’s well worth looking at although its conclusions are all too familiar. On a day when we were talking about James 3 and the power of words to build up, encourage or destroy, it had even more resonance.

welcome strangers

Yesterday, we opened the news and were encouraged to discover the Guardian at least featuring these kind of photos – another truer hint of the depth of value and individual story behind each precious person who has made a desperate journey to Europe.

These images underlined again to us the presence just across the channel of women and children as well as men, of people living with disabilities, of people of peace facing such violent times risking their lives to escape is the only option and of people of deep faith.

These prayers is inspired by some of what we prayed together yesterday morning and by the many Bible verses that talk about welcoming strangers and helping those in need.

We hope they will help you continue to pray for the individuals in Calais, for the media who report on them, for the politicians and officials who hold their futures and for us – whose hearts always have a choice of how to respond to the stranger – with welcome or by washing our hands.

If the strangers (a meditative prayer for Calais and us)

If the strangers at Calais were friends,
and we knew them by name rather than just in numbers,
if we heard them as stories not statistics
and saw each one face to face, one by one…
then we wouldn’t need to ask for the Father’s perspective
and the Son’s compassion and the Spirit’s wisdom to find workable solutions.

If the strangers at Calais were friends,
we’d find a way to reach them
and barely consider the cost.We’d bring them home and lay on every comfort we could
to minister to their needs and make them feel safe.
And we’d seek the best of the best to help heal their trauma.

If the strangers at Calais were friends,
we’d write to the papers and set them all straight
and plead their case to the politicians that held their fate.
We’d stand by them in court and debrief them at home
and we wouldn’t give up
and we wouldn’t leave them on their own.

But the strangers at Calais are strangers
and we are not always listening to your words of welcome.
They’re hard to hear through the rhetoric and spin,
the subtle dehumanising only possible at one step removed.

But I will stop it, step out of it, here on my knees
Where the truth is clear and your mercy wins.

For the strangers at Calais are friends
to those who grieve the loss of them and are left behind
and to those around them who help them through
and most of all to you who said
that I would be your friend too if I would just be theirs
with water, food, clothes, welcome, company and perhaps this prayer.

A prayer of intercession for change to come to Calais

Lord Jesus who calmed the storm
and made a way where there was no way
again and again,
Turn the tide for the ‘migrants’ in Calais.
Soften the hearts of politicians and populations
to see people not problems
and change the words they speak as a result.
Reveal creative solutions
and release the resources to fund them.
Provide shelter in Europe and solutions back home
and give us all a love for each other
that looks at another as if in a mirror
and glimpses beyond to that something deeper
that reflects you and invites the only response possible when we see clearly.

A prayer of intercession for Europe and the UK

God of all history and Lord of today,
in Europe right now please let us remember
the colonies we plundered, the legacy we left
and the reason our nations’ languages are familiar
and our customs appealing to become a second home.

God of all history and Lord of today,
in the UK right now please let us remember
the people and situations we have chosen not to respond to
which we look back in horror on when in the armchair of hindsight
but are all to eager to overlook when history might repeat.

God of all history and Lord of today,
in our communities right now please let us remember
we are still rich and still safe and still privileged and still powerful
while others are poor and in danger and aren’t well connected and are oppressed
and this is an opportunity not for self-preservation but for saving grace.

God of all history and Lord of today,
in our hearts right now please let us remember
the kind of terror that would make us give up all that creates home
and run thousands of miles at almost equal risk
to place our lives in the hands of strangers who didn’t know our worth.

Since writing these prayers yesterday, we’ve been heartened to hear stories of a number of people going to Calais – many of them on day ferries – in order to show solidarity and take food. We are praying for more demonstrations of his heart like this.

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