A few years ago I had a series of Botox injections in my forehead.
It was not for cosmetic purposes, but rather to try to alleviate the pain I was experiencing from a chronic migraine headache. Sadly, it did not work.
It did make a significant difference to the lines on my forehead (they disappeared) and meant I could not raise my eyebrows or frown until the effects wore off (after a few weeks).
It seems to me that some Botox has been applied to some news headlines recently with regard to the global refugee crises.
The headline recently was that Britain will take 20,000 Syrian refugees. This is great news.
But the Botox of spin was injected so that eyebrows were not raised and frowns could not be made.
Most headlines on this story did not show that this was spread over the next five years, and that this pace equates to 76 people per week.
They also neglected to mention that by the end of August 2014, the U.N. estimated 6.5 million people had been displaced in Syria, while more than 3 million refugees had fled to countries such as Lebanon (1.14 million), Jordan (608,000) and Turkey (815,000).
That was last year. And that’s only Syria.
The United Kingdom will accept up to 20,000 people from camps surrounding Syria over the next five years, with priority given to vulnerable children. This is good news and a needed initiative.
But that’s up to 20,000, and the need is urgent now, these people can’t wait five years.
Priority is to be given to vulnerable children. Again, this is to be praised. But, and here’s perhaps the place where the Botox of spin has really frozen the truth, it appears that they will only have the right to stay for five years.
Paddy Ashdown, former leader of the Liberal Democrats, reported that when these vulnerable and displaced children reach the age of 18, the U.K. government says they will be deported.
Really? That surely can’t be true, can it? So far I have not heard anyone from the government denying it.
This is described as humanitarian aid – it’s a compassionate response to a global crisis. And surely it’s better than nothing, isn’t it?
We can’t help everyone. We have a duty to protect the most vulnerable. We want to stop the flow of people across Europe at the source by taking people from the refugee camps. We want to stop human traffickers who are profiting from these vulnerable people and putting their lives at risk.
I understand those points of view, but I want to draw a couple of contrasts between that approach with that of the people of Munich applauding and cheering as the weary refugees arrived there on a weekend.
The British announcement may be better than nothing, but it’s not much better.
The Botox of spin has been applied so that bad headlines can be erased, eyebrows won’t be raised and frowns will disappear. We can pat ourselves on the back for making a difference.
But Jesus had a different view of things. Here is what he said in my slightly revised version of Matthew 25:35-40: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in [a refugee camp] and you came to visit me.”
Jesus continued, “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in [a refugee camp] and go to visit you?'”
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,'” he said.
There’s no time limit or numerical limit there.
Nick Lear is a regional minister of the Eastern Baptist Association in the United Kingdom. A version of this column first appeared on his blog, Nukelear Fishing, and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @NickLear.