(this is the script of my Pause For Thought on Vanessa, BBC Radio 2, on 22.6.22... The theme was Refugee Week... England gets mentioned as it was on national BBC...)
Awer Mabil has to be my current favourite refugee.
Awer’s parents fled the war in Sudan in 1996 and he spent 10 years in a Kenyan refugee camp until they were given a home in Australia. There’s a great movie called The Good Lie that tells a similar story though the children in that movie end up in America.
So Australia welcomed Awer without knowing… and how could they know… what he would do for the nation.
Just 9 days ago Awer lined up in the Australian soccer team against Peru in a World Cup Qualifying Play Off. The winners would go to the World Cup Finals.
It went to penalties. It was 4 all and went to sudden death. The player who took the long walk from the centre circle to the penalty spot to take the sudden death penalty was… you guessed it Awer Mabil… he scored… Peru missed… and Mabil had just scored the goal that takes Australia to Qatar.
Afterwards he said, “It was the only way to say thank you to Australia on behalf of my family,”…
What an amazing way for a refugee to thank their adopted country.
It is also a challenge to a country to wonder who it is that you might be welcoming in and what they might end up doing for the nation.
The Bible warns about being careful how we entertain strangers. It says that some have entertained angels unaware.
There’s a story about an Abbot of a monastery who was having great divisions among his fractious brothers. He had heard about another monastery where relationships were very peaceable. He went for a visit. Sure enough it was almost perfectly harmonious. Everyone humbly serving one another.
So he asked the Abbot how this was. “Well,” said the Abbot “I have told them all that one of them is Jesus but no one knows which one of them he is so they all treat each other as if the other is Jesus.
It’s no stretch. Jesus told his disciples that when they were looking after the sick, the hungry, the homeless and the stranger they were looking after him.
Imagine if as a nation we treated every refugee like they were Jesus who was actually for a refugee for a while.
Who knows England might end up winning penalty shoot outs.