Tag Archives: Martyn Joseph

Migrants, cockroaches, deportees … people

The almost unimaginable horror of people dying in the seas of Europe – and politicians declaring happily how many they had prevented from landing – has overwhelmed even the electioneering shouting of the past week.

My friend Julyan wrote yesterday far more eloquently than I could in the blog of Trinity Methodist Church, Newlyn. You can read it at “Migrants”, “cockroaches” and “my overlooked bothers and sisters.”

It brought to mind a song re-recorded relatively recently by Martyn Joseph for his album Kiss The World Beautiful. It’s Woody Guthrie’s Deportees. It a protest song detailing the January 28kiss beautiful, 1948 crash of a plane near Los Gatos Canyon.

Wikipedia says that Guthrie was struck because radio and newspaper coverage of the Los Gatos plane crash did not give the victims’ names, but instead referred to them merely as “deportees.” None of the deportees’ names were printed in the January 29, 1948 New York Times report, only those of the flight crew and the security guard.

In the poem, Guthrie assigned symbolic names to the dead: “Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita; adiós, mis amigos, Jesús y María…” A decade later, Guthrie’s poem was set to music by schoolteacher Martin Hoffman and folk singer Pete Seeger, began performing it.

Here is a clip of Martyn and Billy Bragg singing Deportees

There’s an eerie parallel with this week’s news reports. Suddenly those drowning off Lampadusa are not people, just “migrants”.

The Council of European Churches have been working to encourage governments to provide legal and safe pathways for all people trying to escape from war zones.

“We deplore this loss of life,” remarked CEC General Secretary Rev. Dr Guy Liagre, “and are deeply saddened by this tragedy on Europe’s doorstep.” We pray also for those involved in the demanding rescue and recovery mission. (read more here)

Reacting to this latest tragedy, and following so many others, World Council of Churches General Secretary Olav Fykse Tveit called for “renewed solidarity and action, and for a resumption and strengthening of a collective European response.” He asked for meaningful European search and rescue efforts and called on EU Member States to contribute substantially and speedily to such efforts in order to prevent future loss of life among people driven to this desperate crossing.

Tveit added, “These tragedies are strong calls for strengthening the efforts to address the root causes for poverty, social insecurity and conflicts in the countries from where the migrants are coming.”

Doris Peschke General Secretary of the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe, said, “Only legal and safe pathways into Europe would help to prevent these tragedies from happening. This includes increased refugee resettlement and lifting of visa requirements for people arriving from countries in conflict, like Syria and Eritrea. We need safe passages.”

How does faith respond to a disaster like Haiti?

People of faith have different ways of dealing with the kind of crisis we have seen unfold in Haiti. Some are able to donate huge sums of money or to get directly involved in the rescue efforts. Some use their public profile to encourage governments to act. Others work quietly in the background. Even now, hundreds of Christians will be working on the ground in Haiti to bring relief, medical care and hope to families devastated by the earthquake.

They will do it without trumpeting their faith; working alongside Christians and people of other faiths and none. They will let their actions speak for them – let Jesus be seen in who they are.

Some other motormouth preachers ought to have learned by now to shut up. Pat Robertson, a former US Presidential candidate, has yet again managed to say completely the wrong thing and then to refuse to apologise. He owns a TV channel and yesterday claimed that the earthquake could be the result of a centuries-old pact with the Devil struck to rid Haiti of its French occupiers.

My favourite singer-songwriter Martyn Joseph had a well-publicised run-in with Robertson after the American called for Mexican President Hugo Chavez to be ‘taken out’ – assassinated. In his song Liberal Backslider Joseph sings:

I take a stand on justice, I take a stand on race
Gonna take me a TV evangelist and punch him in the face
I sing about the hope that’s in me and ask why the poor aren’t fed
But if I don’t toe the party line, it’d be better if I was dead

And today, Robertson’s website has a statement attempting to explain that what he said didn’t exactly mean what he said. But he said it. And he say such stupid things too often. And when the media want to rebut those comments they don’t ask moderate Christians to comment they go to equally potty people like Richard Dawkins because Robertson is just a gift to the anti-God brigade.

Anyway, here is a hymn written originally about the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami but suitable for reflection on disasters. If sung, it goes to the tune of The Church’s One Foundation.

When innocence is fractured
by nature’s shifting force
and paradise is ruptured
as life is swept off course,
we come to pray our questions
we come to share our grief:
in this, our act of worship
to say that we believe.

As headlines overwhelm us
and make us close our minds;
as news from distant islands
brings death before our eyes,
we seek a hope to cling to,
a refuge to embrace
lest in the grip of knowing
we lose our hold on grace.

How dare we speak of heaven
made human for our sake?
Or preach a loving Father
when seas and mountains shake?
We dare because our story
speaks of a love that came
to bear the cost of dying
and still would do the same.

In Christ our souls take refuge
though not to hide from truth:
we face each anxious question
with faith, if not with proof.
We hear his wistful question:
‘And will you leave me too?’
Though all the world should crumble
we hope, O Christ, in you.

Gareth Hill © GraceNotes Music