Sunday, 26 January 2014

January 27th is a special day

On 27th January each year, we remember the holocaust which took place between 1939 and 1945.

Among those who were systematically murdered were Jews, Gypsies, disabled people, Jehovah’s Witnesses  homosexuals and people who had a mental illness.  Those who survived had been through extremes of suffering, mental, emotional and physical.

We remember the past so that we can plan the future. We remember so that we can say, with all our hearts, “Never again!”

Never again do we want to see people first marginalised, then persecuted and finally murdered in huge numbers, simply because of their race, their religion, their sexual orientation, their political affiliation or their disability.

That is why I am so passionately grieved to see the way in which disabled people and Travellers, for example, are being demonised and marginalised.  This satirical blue plaque says much of what I feel:

Our intercessor today expressed it clearly too.  He said, “A holocaust doesn’t just happen.  It’s a gradual process.”

From where I sit, that gradual process has been underway for a longish time in the case of Travellers. Legislation to limit the freedoms that their lifestyle requires has been piling up for centuries, but the first I was personally aware of was the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994

Not only did Section 80 remove the duty of local authorities to provide caravan sites for Travellers, Section V also criminalised most temporary stops, which before had been, if a problem  at all, a civil matter.

More recently, I have been aware of a consistent current of anti-Traveller writing and broadcasting and a positive torrent of demonization and oppression targeted at disabled people. The New Statesman gave evidence about this in their March 2013 article: “Disabled people have never had it so bad.” 

If we allow this to continue, it will escalate until we arrive at our very own Kristallnacht – a government-initiated event of brutality, intimidation and humiliation that inaugurates a reign of terror.

And even now, today may be too late to voice this thought.  We know that there are already people with disabilities who live in a constant state of terror, and others, abandoned by police, community and “caring” services who have been hounded to their deaths.

So with Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, I pray:

May God, who continually shelters His people
as they journey on, make Himself known to us anew
in the next person each one of us meets -
in the stranger, and the one we find strange;
in the opponent, and the one who irritates us;
and in the silence which calls each one of us ‘beloved’;
so that God’s love can change
even this bowed and bloodied world, according to God’s perfect will.