September
08
Author
Paul Mogford
Homes for those in need

In this time of rising racial tension and increasing nationalism, what should we make of Gary Lineker, the footballer and pundit who, it appears, put his money where his mouth is? Last week it was reported that having called the government “heartless and completely without empathy” over the latest flood of migrants trying to enter the UK, he has taken the next huge step – and invited a family to live with him, though he doesn’t know the family or where they come from.

One should ask why take this extraordinary step? What is to gain from it? Yes, there is publicity, but surely he is not so down on his luck as to need a publicity boost that badly. It can’t be for any monetary reason. Refugees and asylum seekers attract very little government money per capita. Indeed, earlier in 2020, the government increased the amount they receive per day by 26p – giving them £36.85 per week to live on. From this, they buy all their food, personal items and clothing etc. No refugee family could pay much rent to the Lineker household in the near future! And of course, many asylum seekers have No Recourse to Public Funding (NRPF) at all.

Without the generosity of families and individuals like Lineker, many are forced to ‘sofa surf’, living off one hand out to the next. Some end up in the precarious black market, working for little, with no working rights or legal cover should things go wrong. Most end up with nowhere to live, nowhere to go, nothing to spend. No hope of things ever changing.

Maybe Mr Lineker is simply being altruistic. After all, in each of us, there is the desire to recognise and honour someone else’s humanity. During this time of lockdown and the awful impact of a pandemic, we’ve seen many people helping just because they can. Neighbourliness has become commonplace again. Donations to charities that offer direct help (such as Foodbank) have increased. Local emergency charities have seen volunteering increase exponentially. Note the commendation that another footballer, Marcus Rashford, received for putting pressure on the government to change their decision on meals for children through the holidays, a movement which is still gaining momentum.

But, says the critic, doesn’t charity start at home? What about helping our fellow country folk in their time of trouble. From a Christian perspective, we see throughout the Bible that we are to offer help to our neighbours – it’s a clear mandate that we can’t escape. However, there is a question that still rings in our ears, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ There follows the parable of the Good Samaritan. In an incredibly subversive way, Jesus shows us that the most unexpected are our neighbours. Not just the obvious, but the unknown stranger. Leviticus 19 v 34 is explicit – “The foreigners residing among you must be treated as native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

It is often quoted that we can tell the strength of a culture by how it cares for its most weak and vulnerable. In our world, there are few who are weaker or more vulnerable than those who find themselves in a strange country, with a strange culture, without family and support. No wonder the Bible is really clear that ‘foreigners and strangers’ are to be treated with honour and dignity, and to be included as part of our own family and community.

So good on you Mr Lineker. You’re making good your abhorrence of an unjust situation. You’re putting your money where your mouth is. You’re doing what many of us would love to do but for one reason or another cannot. And, perhaps unwittingly, you’re doing just what the Heavenly Father has asked us to do – to become family to those with no family, to offer a home to homeless, and to offer care to the people most unloved in our society.

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To learn more about how to host a refugee yourself, visit Refugees at Home. For other information, and ideas about how you can help, visit the Jubilee+ Refugee Network page.

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