Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…………. This was by Anonymous; however, a man called Clemont Clarke-Moor claimed authorship in 1837.

I could write an article saying how magical Christmas is and peace to all, but these sentiments are not held by the vast majority of governments and the right wing, and certainly not by the Israeli government and Zionists. Instead, I want to highlight the plight of refugees and Palestinians who aren’t given the Christmas spirit we extend to our sisters and brothers who are not currently suffering from oppression, violence, and threat to lives.

I recently went to see The Old Oak, directed by Ken Loach and written by Paul Laverty. Another amazing window looking through at the reality of people’s lives as conveyed through the intuitive eyes of Ken Loach. This was such a compelling story about how Syrian refugees were housed in empty houses in a village, which used to be a pit village, in the north east. Of course, as we know, Thatcher closed down the mines and destroyed the communities of the people who worked in them. When the refugees arrived in the village, a couple of local men started harassing them as they stepped off the bus. Yara, a young women, started to take pictures and a man tried to take her camera. The camera fell on the ground and broke.

The Old Oak is the name of the pub in the village and, as they often are, it was the meeting place for people to spend their time and lament the loss of community and employment. The landlord, TJ, was a kindly man who was trying his best to keep the pub running. He met Yara and his first act was to get Yara’s camera repaired. This was the beginning of the bond that formed between them. People in the village were poor and had very little money to spend. When the refugees arrived, many people were upset because this put more pressure on them and their scant resources. The people most hostile were the pub-goers — these were two communities, each in their own way having suffered loss. Although you can’t equate the two experiences, grief does invoke very similar feelings. The landlord was welcoming towards the refugees, but his regulars didn’t like that and were openly hostile towards him. Yara was able to speak relatively good English and so became a spokesperson for the group. She and TJ started communicating and collaborating to try to encourage the community to embrace the refugees. Marra was the landlord’s dog; she was really friendly and helped break the ice for many people, particularly the children.

As time passed, the locals started to blame the refugees for failures and the situation that they were in, even though, in essence, the community was no worse off; in fact, they were better off having the richness of a new culture. The Syrian community reached out to the locals, sharing food across the community. TJ allowed them the use of the back room in the pub to engage with the locals and share their food. 

As the months passed, the community welcomed and embraced them. There was so much passion and soul-searching between the communities and, having heard people’s individual stories, bonds were formed.

Although this is not a true story it reflects the experience of how, in many instances, refugees have to navigate their way through a system that has become much more hostile to people from other countries and cultures. This was able to convey the right sentiments and reality of life here in the UK, a film that is a must to watch.

Now many years ago, another pub landlord felt empathy for refugees. According to the Bible, this was in the time of Mary and Joseph who lived in Nazareth in the northern highland of Galilee. They had to travel back to Joseph’s ancestral city, Bethlehem, for the Roman census. They needed to find a place for Mary to give birth. People refused to allow them shelter, saying they were full or didn’t want them to stay. They were treated like refugees in their own country. Joseph and Mary eventually went to an inn in Bethlehem and the landlord said they could sleep in his stable, where Mary gave birth to Jesus.  

Following this, after Joseph was told by an angel that Jesus was at risk of being murdered, they continued on their journey to escape from the murderous Herod. They fled from Palestine and went to Egypt were they resided for about two years before returning to Nazareth. They were refugees having to leave their homeland because of the threat to the life Jesus. 

The themes I am trying to highlight in this article are the plight of refugees and people’s indifference or discrimination towards them. Jesus came from Palestine, he and his family had to flee to another safe country as refugees. The Syrian and the Palestinian refugees were helped by an innkeeper. Now in Palestine we have many people who are refugees in their own country, as well as millions being displaced and having to leave their homes and flee to other countries. 

There are millions of people worldwide who claim to be Christians, many of whom do not see the worth or plight of refugees. We are witnessing the worst genocide in living memory in Gaza and the West Bank. The Christian philosophy is that you should love thy neighbour as thyself. Christmas is supposed to be about goodwill to all peoples, a time to be generous of spirit, and yet many who claim to be Christians, including our political leaders in the west, are refusing to support the call for a ceasefire even when Israel is attacking churches and killing Christians in Gaza.

The worst are the Christian Zionists who are actively cheering on the Israeli forces. So when someone tells you they are a Christian, remember these times in Palestine and the lack of support towards refugees, and ask them to support peace and justice for Palestine. If they refuse, call them out for what they are, not Christians but hypocrites.  

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