Migrants, justice and border lives

One of the big challenges facing humanity this century is the interplay between migration, urbanisation and climate change. In this chapter of Carnival Kingdom, some of these issues are raised and the question of how the church is to respond is posited.

Here are a few excerpts from chapter 6 of Carnival Kingdom posted on the book’s facebook page this last week:-

“We can quite clearly see the explosion of the technological age all around us now. However, in our scramble for the latest iPad incarnation or smartphone handset are we merely repeating the insatiable appetite for consumption of the early imperialists?…Castells is right to say that arriving at the Information Age ‘is not necessarily an exhilarating moment’. Rather poignantly he muses that, ‘alone at last in our human world, we shall have to look at ourselves in the mirror of historical reality’. If the Information Age teaches us one thing, it is that it is increasingly difficult to hide behind the veil of ignorance. Our actions and inactions hold us to account, not only to those around us but to the rest of humanity in starkly visible ways. The global village has truly arrived, and as Castells chillingly warns, having stared into that mirror of historical reality ‘we may not like the vision.’”

Maybe the migrant experience of seeing life in such fragmentary forms actually reveals a dimension that more static experiences have missed. If so, the ‘truths’ discovered by such boundary crossers ought to be taken more seriously and in turn become not only a tool of empowerment for the migrant but educational wisdom for the rest of us. Whilst Rushdie’s reflections were made ‘in broken mirrors, some of whose fragments have been irretrievably lost’, nevertheless such acknowledgement is in itself profound and enlightening, and adds a few more colours to the kaleidoscope of human experience. In learning to ‘reflect reality in “broken mirrors”, the migrant comes to treasure a partial, plural view of the world [precisely] because it reveals all representations of the world as incomplete.

Do present times suggest that we all might identify with [a] sense of insecurity, of not quite knowing what is next? We have moved…from a ‘post-’ era into something ‘beyond’, perhaps a new ‘pre-’ or ‘neo-’ era. Have migratory mindsets now become universal and not merely owned by the more obviously displaced? Internal displacement characteristic of the post-modern suspicion of the grand meta-narrative leads us to deconstruct what we had previously built up, the unchanging fixed ‘truths’ of modernist and traditionalist agendas. Have we now entered a time of abandoning external reference points and taken on a more illusory undefined notion, that which lies on the new horizon of the ‘beyond’? If this is the case, at least to some extent, then we have much to learn from the migrant’s experience and consequent state of mind.”

Jørgen Randers, in his enlightening book, 2052–A Global Forecast for the next forty years, considers the migration to the city as an inevitable one-way flow, both now, and in the future, in a time of runaway climate change. The city, in his view, will provide shelter from progressively hostile rural contexts where nature’s ‘revenge’ will become ever more evident. He casts a vision of increased social challenge for huge numbers of humans living in tight communities, but his generally positive outlook nevertheless acknowledges the foreseeable problems that this particular scenario creates. A contributing article within Randers’ work by Per Arild Garnasjordet and Lars Helm refers to the global scenario of 2052 as being one containing ‘cities of gold’ on a ‘planet of slums’. These economic inequalities of the future will fuel, amongst other challenges, increased inter-generational conflict. Our generation, and the ones before us, are leaving a planet with an ecological
and economic burden that many of our children and grandchildren
will find hard to accept, and their anger is not likely to be left silent.”

A key point is that the Christian community by virtue of its non-partisan identity is ideally placed to reduce the dividing space of ‘no-man’s land’ and instead actively move into that liminal space that Bhabha invites us to, in order to meet the migrant there; a neutral space where there are no power-games, but rather a standing together. Not only that, but as Bhabha argues this is a creative space of possibility: in theological terms, this is a place where we might move away from rigid dogma, and re-encounter the crucified, resurrected and ascended Christ in truly personal ways. This incarnational concept has been most powerfully provided by Christ himself.

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