The Word on the Week

Travellers Distress

The fire last weekend at the temporary halting site took the lives of ten people. Five were adults and five were children. They died when fire totally engulfed the Portacabin and a caravan the families had been occupying for the last eight years.

There followed an outpouring of sympathy with tributes led by the President, the Archbishop of Dublin and Government Ministers. Floral tributes were strewn around the entrance to the site. Local housing officials attended the site and organised hostel accommodation for the 15 survivors who had been left homeless.

The Local Council identified a suitable site on an acre of land which it owned close by to the original site. The neighbouring houses were leafleted informing them of a temporary arrangement to house the survivors. The local residents quickly declared the site unsuitable, doubted the Council’s word that it would terminate after 6 months and anticipated anti-social behaviour from the remaining members of the Connors family. As I write talks with the residents are ongoing.

First the sympathy then the realisation of the consequences. The reservoir of goodwill dries up quickly and the “nimby” (not in my back yard) attitude forms. Scripture has a few similar examples the best known being the attitude of the Jews to the Samaritans (St John’s Gospel Chapter 4 verse 9).

Ignoring the convention that Jews did not mix with Samaritans Jesus stayed with them for two days during which time many believed in him.

Did these believers have their faith in Jesus established by Philip the Apostle’s preaching when he went there following the persecution of believers in Jerusalem? (Acts Chapter 8 verses 4/8). It seems likely that they were there to hear Philip update them with the news of the crucifixion and resurrection. The text says they paid close attention to what he said and there were signs authenticating the message as people were delivered from evil spirits and healed from paralyses.

The Gospel is for all groups. There are no exceptions. The challenge is to follow Philip’s example.