On Thursday the 26th of November the senior school got together to partake in this year’s Big Issues Day (Baird talks more about this in his own article on the day). This year the issues were Should we allow the genetic manipulation of embryos?; Should GM crops be grown or used in the UK?; Should the UK be accepting refugees and Should the UK intervene in the war in Syria. These are all very prominent issues today in the UK with an influx of refugees entering Europe; increased tension in Syria and its surrounding countries; new laws being passed on the genetic manipulation of embryos and Wales and Scotland putting in an outright ban on the growing of GM crops. However, it didn’t just get the students partaking in the event thinking, it also got us – members of the Big Issues Day committee – thinking. After all the organised chaos of the day had subsided and we were left standing together, we collectively had a moment to consider the days topics.
During a presentation on ‘Should the UK be accepting refugees?’ the Reverend Campbell – one of our school chaplains and a presenter at this years Big Issues Day – opened up the floor to allow those attending the presentation to express their view and start a discussion. Being teenagers, a great silence fell and the Rev. Campbell turned to me to start up the discussion. What did I think about refugees coming to UK? With a bit of quick thinking I came to the conclusion that it was, in fact, a good thing. The UK is a multicultural nation. One of the nation’s favourite dishes is Tikka Masala, a dish which is said can trace its roots back to the great and ancient city of Glasgow. But would this dish ever have existed if we had not embraced other cultures and made them part of our own? Of course not.
For centuries we have embraced other cultures and taken them into our day-to-day lives. England, and Scotland for that matter, have strong ties with the French which date back for many a century. Orkney, Shetland and the north of Scotland have strong Norse connections from the integration of Norse travellers into Scottish society. Even tea, the drink the world associates with being British, is not from our country. The anti-refugee group Britain First like to place Christianity at the centre of their twisted views but do they not understand that Jesus was not born in the UK? He, as many of the refugees flocking to European shores are, was from the Middle East. If they could read their own religious texts they would know of oppression and exile. Moses and the Israelites suffered in Egypt under Pharaoh and were not allowed to leave. After 10 vicious plagues he eventually permitted them to leave thus marking the start of their mass exodus to the promised land. However, this is not all that different from the current refugee crisis. For these refugees the UK is a promised land – it promises hope, safety and freedom – and they too are running from tyrannous leaders and corrupt ways.
We as British people are from one common place, whether we are black or white, Muslim or Jewish but we are a nation of people so diverse it is awe inspiring. For centuries we have embraced the world and offered it a place in our society, in our homes and in our hearts, so why stop now?
Before we start bickering over the fact that these people, who are in desperate need of safety and care, will somehow ruin what it means to be British, we should first define what British is. The Oxford dictionary defines British as:
1 Relating to Great Britain or the United Kingdom, or its people or language.
It can therefore be said that if we act compassionately, if we allow these people to seek refuge in our little island nation, they can therefore become British through integration. They will weave their ways and traditions into our vast and colourful tapestry of Britishness as many have done before them; enriching our culture and diversifying our daily lives.
The quality of being British or having characteristics regarded typically as British.
In these people’s time of need understanding must overthrow ignorance; acceptance must vanquish prejudice and compassion must dethrone pride. Only after all of this can we be caring and humane.