The Mediterranean is turning into a graveyard. It is distressing to see such a high loss of human life in these recent weeks. The UN says that 23,500 migrants have already sailed to Italy this year looking for a new life.
In some ways what is happening on the North Africa-Italy route can seem like a million miles from the safety and comfort of South Suffolk, but I am betting my old socks that immigration is something most people will have a view on.
It is heart-breaking to hear of the recent loss of 700 migrants on board the 20m long boat. (Only 28 survivors were rescued.) Up to 1,500 migrants are now feared to have drowned this year alone and sadly that number will rise.
Fear and desperation do funny things to us. I wonder if we were faced with the similar problems of daily violence or economic hardship in Africa and the Middle East what we might be tempted to do, left our own devices.
In another story, The Times reported how a rubber dinghy carrying about 100 Africans migrants had started to deflate. A young Nigerian Christian started praying for his life but the Muslims on board insisted that he stopped, saying, “here we only pray to Allah” His refusal led to a desperate fight, which left 12 Christians drowned after they were thrown overboard by their fellow Muslim refugees.
How difficult it must be to forgive such aggression. For a country like ours which values freedom of choice, it rubs against everything that we hold dear.
At this time of the General Election, we have the privilege to vote for a new government. It is one of the things I most love about our country.
When I come to put my cross on the ballot paper I am not just voting out of self-interest, but in the interests of others too. I hope that my mark will affect the quality of life for my family, neighbours and colleagues. For me not to vote would seem like a waste of an opportunity to celebrate our freedom of choice.
I owe my inspiration from the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan, which provides a timely reminder on why we should show kindness to strangers, regardless of our social and ethnic differences - however hard it can be when not reciprocated.
In the story the Samaritan, part of a community despised by the Jews, spends his own money to look after a beaten up Jewish man found on the road’s wayside. Eventually he is returned to full health. Helping a fellow human being with no personal gain is a tough principle to live by in any age, but it seems even more tested with the current mass migration of people groups across the world.
However, the story of The Good Samaritan remains a political, social and moral parable for our times which rightly continues to challenge us to the core. How we welcome the broken, the troubled, the unwanted and the unlovable to live our community matters - not least to God, the creator of life.
When Jesus was asked by a legal expert what he must do to inherit eternal life he got the reply: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, “Love your neighbour as yourself…do this and you will live.”
And for that reason Jesus gets my vote. In him, a picture of true humanity is revealed through his demonstration of perfect love for others.