Called to be builders of the Kingdom of God
The Tower of Babel is one of the great stories in Genesis. The confusion of different languages, the inability to communicate which so often leads to frustration and violence, paints a powerful picture of dissonance that we are painfully familiar with. How reaching for the heavens and thus leaving the humility of the earth, driven by pride and arrogance, just divides us into factions. It is that division that we are asked to reflect on during Racial Justice Sunday. How can the utopia of the Garden of Eden dissolve so quickly – the alienation of sin and of humanity from God, soon becomes the alienation of man from man in the death of Cain and eventually the alienation of all human society from God and each other in Babel.
Now, in 2014, this alienation shows its ugly face in our attitude to immigrants and particularly in the scandal of human trafficking in our biggest cities. Poverty seems to give a different price to childhood in many underdeveloped countries. At the recent ground breaking conference in Rome – organised by the Bishops Conference of England & Wales and the London Metropolitan Police and its Human Trafficking Unit, Pope Francis said “Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity”. A ‘hyper sexualised’ society can only feed this alienation and create a market for this type of slavery.
The other side of the coin, however, is of course how far we have come as a society. Fond memories of the years working in the two Jesuit comprehensive schools always include how respectful the boys were of different ethnic groups. No-one played the ‘race’ card, a temptation that was surely there for troubled adolescent boys. In one school there were over 50 native languages spoken – but somehow a creative harmony was prominent and it was clear that faith was something that brought them together. We can all testify to how waves of immigration have given new life to urban churches all over the country and showed us the richness of Catholicity.
Presently one of the joys for me of working in a large university chaplaincy is how international the student body is, and how that is most palpable when we gather around the Eucharistic table. The different , often hostile, contexts in which their faith has grown seems to result in a more enduring and precious commitment. Today we said goodbye to an inspiring student, who had finished her PHD in Theatre Studies and was returning to Syria as she was bound to teach there for the next ten years as a way of paying back her scholarship from Damascus University. She was flying to Beirut to be met by her father and brother who would drive across the border on the perilous journey to Damascus. We agreed that her mission was to help rebuild her country when peace eventually comes.
From the growing dystopia of Genesis we remember that we are called to be builders of the Kingdom of God, which has arrived and is still to be fulfilled.
Read the Catholic Bishops Conference response to human trafficking http://www.cbcew.org.uk/human-trafficking
Fr Tim Byron SJ