It was a pleasure to share a platform with Albert Owen, my MP and Leanne Wood, the Leader of Plaid Cymru as we spoke against racism in Llangefni earlier today.
This in the speech I did not quite give. I gave a version of it, but the rain made the paper too sodden and my hands were beginning to turn blue.
Diolch am wahodd ficer Saesneg egsentrig i siarad.
Trwy fy mywyd dw i wedi byw mewn trefi. Mae byw gyda phobl o wahanol ddiwylliannau yn naturiol i mi.
Mi wnes i symud i Fae Trearddur, Ynys Mon o Birmingham, Lloegr yn mis Chwefror 2014, a Dw i’n dysgu Cymraeg ers 18 mis. Mi fydda i’n siarad yn saesneg rwan.
I have spent most of my life in cities, latterly in Birmingham. People of different cultures coming together is normal for me. Sometimes there have been tensions, but usually scratching the surface, such has been caused by poverty and indeed personal personality clashes rather than by differences in race or religion. One of my son’s closest friends in Birmingham is a Muslim. I got to know Mr Hassan, the father of my son’s friend quite well. We disagreed about religion (I think the reasons for that should be obvious). Most of the time though we were more worried about how to parent children in today’s society, and about the decreasing opportunities for ordinary people. It was surprising how much we agreed on until we learnt to laugh with each other.
I can understand why people are fearful in this time of relative economic difficulty. There is something about human beings that sometimes want to resist change. My parents’ generation struggled with immigration, except they did not really. They embraced the Irish couple living next door and the Polish family on the side of their semi-detatched. What they were afraid of was difference. The Infidels and their friends want to prey on that fear. They do not want to give people the chance to meet and discover our common humanity. To realise that people sing about the same things, share common stories, embrace similar hopes and long for a chance to flourish. To deny another human being the opportunity to do this is both immoral and diminishes our own chances at flourishing too.
I can understand people being worried about the current displacement of people’s and the number of refugees coming into Europe. When people are fearful, the world becomes smaller and the shadow of the unknown hides many things. The current refugee crisis did not cause the events in Paris last week, and evil as those events were – and we should be unafraid of labelling the leaders of Daesh as evil; we cannot offer the people of terror the gift of refusing the hand of friendship to those in genuine need. Daesh wish to wreak havoc and implement darkness. People of goodwill the world over need to allow the light to shine in that darkness. I am going ask us to pause and keep a moments stillness as we remember the victims of Paris, Mali, Syria and beyond.
Tarnishing all Muslims with the same brush as Daesh is simply unintelligent. It is akin to assuming that as a Church in Wales priest am akin to a member of the Klu Klux Klan. I am not, I hasten to add.
The nations of the United Kingdom have by tradition always been welcoming. Not always, we should admit that. Welcome is not easy. It is costly. At a personal level it is demanding. But it is a price usually well worth paying. Not to welcome is to seal up our borders, putting up the sign ‘no room at the inn’, which comes from a story that I know well. This is not saying that we should not take appropriate measures to defend ourselves and our children; simply that to turn all away is to dehumanise ourselves. Those who do not want to support diversity recreate history in their own image, imagining a time when Britain stood alone and isolated; in my church in Holyhead there is a plaque to the Dutch Navy who defended these shores. Many of those soldiers settled in my town. Their contribution was vital to the freedom that was gained, and all the more welcome given that the Netherlands had been overrun by the Nazi State.
My late Uncle was one of the few, serving proudly alongside personnel from all corners of the Commonwealth. Never have such a diverse group been understood by so many as so few. We need to learn our history once again. Extending the hand of welcome is not unpatriotic, it is human and resonates with all that has made the different nations of the British Isles beacons of hope.
In Birmingham, I got to know someone called Steve (not his real name). He was from Zimbabwe. He was an officer in the Royal Zimbabwean Air Force, until he disobeyed the orders of Robert Mugabe. Steve knew more about standing up to facism and its costs than most of today. I am proud that he was made welcome in the UK.
For people to integrate fully, they need to be welcomed unconditionally. It takes time, even I know that as an Englishman living in the different nation of Wales.
As a Christian leader, I am also aware that the message I believe in, demands justice, integrity, grace, truth and worships a God who in Jesus was a refugee fleeing with Mary and Joseph for his life.
It was inconvenient to make room for that Middle Eastern family such a long time ago.
Our inconvenience today is nothing when compared to the journeys refugees continue to make to flee oppression. We welcome them. We are shaped by them, and we shape them; and the world is brighter because of it.