Welcoming the world…
This week the news headlines have been dominated by stories of the so-called ‘Windrush generation’. Each day we have been introduced to another child of a Commonwealth citizen who has been told that despite working here for a lifetime, they are living here ‘illegally’ – because of a lack of official paperwork. Their experiences have exposed the harshness and hostility of recent immigration policy, forced public apologies and inspired reassurances from the prime minister herself.
Ironically it is also the week which marks fifty years since the then Wolverhampton MP, Enoch Powell, delivered his hateful ‘rivers of blood’ speech – a speech that proved so racially divisive that some have objected to the BBC’s decision to re-broadcast it on Radio 4. At the time Powell’s damaging rhetoric unleashed a media firestorm. Some of those on the receiving end were the ethnically diverse pupils of a local Wolverhampton primary school.
Yet, half a century later, the same multi-racial school in Whitmore Reans has embraced its negative association with Powell and turned it to wonderful good.
In an extraordinary six month project, pupils in years 5 and 6 explored the history of their school, learned about the current immigration debate, listened to each other’s stories of exclusion and inclusion and resolved to become champions of the kind of integration Powell dismissed.
West Park Welcomes the World is the culmination of it all: a powerful play which uses song, dance, film and shadow puppetry to tell the story of the challenges and triumphs of being a truly multi-cultural school community in Britain today.
I cannot help but link these stories in my mind to the story of Easter and the crucifixion-resurrection event at its heart. On the cross Jesus suffered the evil of our human hostility and division in his own broken body in order to turn it to good. His redemptive love opened the way to reconciliation – with God and one another.
Those of us who orient ourselves by these events embrace the brokenness of the world and then live for its unity. Only cross-shaped lives can announce resurrection.