‘No one came’ were the words of one of the two survivors of the tragedy that occurred over the English Channel on November 23rd, 2021. According to press reports, 27 people, including men, women and children attempted a perilous journey in search of sanctuary and protection. The group had set off from the French coast and after encountering difficulties, in the early hours of the next day, all but two succumbed to their deaths in the freezing cold waters.
After the tragedy, the traumatized survivors have been reported to say ‘we called the French police and asked them to help us’, ‘we called the British police for help…’ But nobody came to the rescue.
Every year, at this time of the year, Christians around the world are invited to prepare for the One that brings joy to the world. But how can I prepare as an individual to welcome Jesus when I know of the suffering of many who are seeking sanctuary? What impact does hearing that so many lives have been lost at sea have? At borders? How can we, a community of believers, ignore them knowing that our baptism calls us to welcome the stranger?
The survivor’s account of the Channel tragedy reminds me vividly of the Gospel passage when Joseph and heavily pregnant Mary were searching for a room for Mary to rest and for the baby to be born. What would their search for an inn look like today? Perhaps it’s in the form of that boat that was asking for help, from one side and the other, and no one came. Again, no room at the inn!
As we prepare this Advent, we may reflect about those uncomfortable events that happen today which challenge our Christian duties towards our brothers and sisters in need. Pope Francis has invited us all to build ‘an even wider we’, which seems to be no different to what Jesus tells us in the bible ‘whatever you do to the least of my brothers or sisters, you do it to me’ ( Matthew 25:40).