It is impossible to avoid the images of the civilians fleeing from Ukraine; crossing a major river on a plank footway, the wait at stations for trains going east and then the scramble to get on. Then there is the misery of those still in the besieged cities; the cold, the hunger, to say nothing of the danger from bombs and shells. Poland seems in danger of being overwhelmed; the response of our own government does seem to be caught up in red-tape and form filling.
The Bible, and especially the Old Testament, has much to say about exile. At the heart of their faith, the ancient Hebrews had a memory of when they were captives, how God acted to bring them to safety from Egypt. And in historical times, they lived through a period of enslavement, when they were all taken into captivity in Babylon. The pain is recorded, especially in the psalms. And this led to a response; engrained in the Law was an obligation not just to look after the poor, the widow and the orphan, but also the “alien”, because “you were once aliens in the land of Egypt”.
And so we also have an obligation to help the refugees from Ukraine; something I suspect almost everyone agrees with. But inside me, I have an uncomfortable thought. When Russia was bombing Allepo in Syria, did I feel quite the same concern? Does our compassion extend in quite the same way to refugees who are not from Europe? From pride of race and creed, Good Lord deliver us.