There is an unsettling tapestry currently hanging in the nave of Sheffield Cathedral as part of Going Public Sheffield. "Plus Ultra" or "Further beyond," by the Anglo-Polish artist Goshka Macuga confronts us uncomfortably with the brutal reality of migration. In the bottom left of the tapestry we can see an overloaded and unsafe looking ship setting sail for Europe, while three Africans drown close to the ship.
What can we do in Sheffield about such suffering? Here are four simple suggestions.
1) We could sign the e-petition to Parliament calling for a compassionate and determined response to this suffering from our Government. You can find the petition by clicking here or alternatively, you could write to your local MP registering your concern.
2) It can be hard to know what to pray for in such a complex matter. We plan to hold a Prayer Vigil with Christian Aid in the Cathedral a little later in the autumn (we are waiting to confirm dates with Christian Aid). You might cut out a picture of migrants from the paper, and tuck this into your Prayer Book or Bible, to help you pray for those in the picture, and through them all those in migrancy. A good prayer to begin with is Psalm 137, the great howl of pain of God's people living in exile, by the waters of Babylon.
3) You might want to give the price of a coffee, or a simple meal, to one of the charities working with migrants. I am particularly impressed by Christian Aid's work with migrants, but don't forget splendid local charities such as ASSIST.
4) The themes of wandering, exile, and welcoming the stranger run deep in the Holy Scriptures. You might want to read the short Book of Ruth in the Old Testament. This tells the story of a young widow who becomes a migrant in her grief. It is very moving to read Ruth's frightening experience of scrabbling for food, and use the story to pray for migrants today. Of course, Ruth is listed in the New Testament as one of the ancestors of our Saviour.
These four steps are only beginnings perhaps, but they are strong beginnings and through them I pray that God may guide us into a deeper understanding and action.
The Very Revd Peter Bradley
The Dean of Sheffield