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Mercy and Pity

At the edge of Europe between Hungary and Serbia there is now 100 miles of razor wire fence, it is four metres high, that’s thirteen feet in old money or about as high as a horse. The razor atop the wire is ferocious and the inner perimeter is patrolled by armed forces hunting in jeeps for any who have slipped their way under. Yet we remember the rejoicing and celebration in 1989 for the falling of the Berlin wall, vilified as an instrument of East German repression – and now forty-five years later Europe is rebuilding barriers.

On the island of Kos, people fleeing Syria and Eritrea, places of violence and war find themselves on a holiday Greek island with beaches, umbrellas and yachts in the background but then found that tear gas was fired on them.

Our Collect which we said together this morning begins, as they all do, by reminding us who God is, reminding us who we are praying to, who we are petitioning:

O God, you declare your almighty power
Most chiefly in showing mercy and pity

My dictionary defines Mercy as “compassion for the unfortunate “ and Pity as “feeling of sorrow for the misfortunes f others”

Are these to be found in our fence building, tear gas firing or tunnel barricading?

But the news is not all atrocious – a lady was interviewed this week who had safely landed on European shores, on a proper boat. She was more than eight months pregnant and had been sent to hospital for an ultrasound – she emerged smiling, all was well it was to be a baby girl.

“What will you call her?” asked our man from the BBC
“O after the ship,” she said – the ship was called “DIGNITY”

Our Collect continues to ask God “to grant us a measure of his grace.”

Grace, mercy, pity, I have not heard much about these in the newspapers, the television, or the radio. This week when the Sun and the Express heard that a part of Songs of Praise was to be broadcast from the shanty built chapel in the “Jungle” the name given to the camp on the outskirts of Calais their headlines criticised the outrageous abuse of the licence fee payers’ money. The Bishop of Leeds, very quickly spoke out reminding these august investigative journals that God loves all his people.

And it is to wondered if the word “Jungle” is already a bad choice, not to mention other collective nouns that have been used – these people who are fleeing abhorrent conditions are fathers, mothers, children, pregnant girls – I am pleased for Dignity, I hope she will be born safely and truly grow to find the better life that her mum fought for. But more I hope there will be far greater vessels of help called “Mercy” and “Pity” for surely these are the only true solution.


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