Exactly a year on from the Brexit referendum one statement of principle deserves to be spelt out here. We in the Othona Community affirm Jesus’ teaching of love for our neighbour – and recognise especially our near neighbours on the continent of Europe.
I don’t mean to prescribe what policies or parties Othona people do or should support. It’s a matter of principle and motivation, on which I hope we can all unite. “Dear Continental Europeans: we’re still your friends!” To fear or smear people just because they come from ‘abroad’ is alien to our whole ethos.
Othona has always had a sense of European brotherhood/sisterhood close to its heart. Founded in 1946, we grew out of the experience of war and the determination to reconcile those who had been enemies (as did the EU). Our very first summer at Bradwell included Germans on site as valued community members; that particular link has never been broken.
Of course Jesus went further than the love of our neighbours as ourselves. His single most innovative teaching (and lived example) – not to be found anywhere in earlier scriptures or rabbis’ teachings, I’m told – is the love of enemies. This is incomparably challenging stuff. How do we do it?
Perhaps the tiny beginning we can make – in this turmoil of our national and international life – is simply to hesitate about branding people as enemies in the first place.
Whenever I’m tempted to condemn a politician, or rubbish a campaign, or stereotype a group of people… I could choose instead to remember how sifting the world into ‘us and them’, ‘in and out’, ‘right and wrong’, however tempting and enjoyable, is always less than the full picture. Always an obscuring of our common humanity. Always a clouding of the divine image.