People watch from the sure as others drag nets along

Image credit: Eric Masur / Unsplash

Friday: In my tradition we remember that a young, male, Jewish carpenter in Occupied Palestine, who exercised freedom of expression and worship, died in an excruciating public execution, out-sourced to Occupiers after a rigged trial, dog-whistle populism and plenty of zealotry.

The young male had a well-founded fear of persecution and was repeatedly internally displaced, run out of towns, and accused of spurious crimes. He sought refuge in small boats, and on mountain tops, or in gardens.

We often remember that this same young male escaped a violent massacre of children when his parents acted on a tip-off and fled to Egypt, waiting to return to a quiet town when the coast was clear. Others, including a woman called Rachel, saw their first-born sons massacred.

In an illegal bill on migration currently before parliament (and ironically called Illegal Migration Bill), the United Kingdom government is proposing to put people who claim asylum from precisely such contexts into containers, just like the ones where they were previously unjustly imprisoned and tortured, with no visitors, and and for indefinite periods of time.

If the young males and children imprisoned in this way survive the ordeal, and do not self-harm or commit suicide, the state’s preferred and actively-chosen way of destroying lives (research is unequivocal on this), then they will be sent to Rwanda, against their will.

In this deadly, political, cruel and unusual game with the lives of those who have a well-founded fear of persecution today, in my tradition we have a practice of nothing but tears; of honouring the utter despair for one day only; of staying profoundly with the grief.


After all that… Seven last words have been said.
Silence tells us this betrayal is over;
self-interest has won.
The consequences hang heavy in the thick air.
The weeping has begun.
The anger too great for argument.

The defeat of love is absolute.
Those left borrow a grave in a garden.
And the cold earth takes over.
The cold earth takes over.
It falls into the cold earth.
And the cold earth takes over.


At seas.
They have no choice left.
Theirs is a well-founded fear.
A small boat is full.

First up
She has not
yet heard him
call her name,
but she is walking
towards the garden…

After all wars, and after genocides, the only route to peace, comes through education, and justice, and care for words, and healing, and new words and new laws. It’s hard work for generations. And it’s our work to do now.

* See also on Ekklesia: Church leaders oppose the Illegal Migration Bill.


© Alison Phipps is Unesco Chair of Refugee Integration through Languages and Arts at the University of Glasgow.