"Integration" .... or "Hospitality, Generosity and Welcome"

Louise Carey's Review of Opportunity and Integration has already stirred much discussion. I've read a couple of chapters, reviewed the action points, and read a few pro and anti reports. Ive certainly not given it enough time to write my own perspective with integrity (though I'll hazard a guess that has not stopped some). If I did I'm not sure what I'd add to the volumes that have been or will be written. I certainly owe the chapter on Hate and Extremism' a revisit, and that on 'Leadership.' 

What I'll boldly say is this. I'm not sure how useful it will be.  I have no doubt it'll be used to legitimise the government's next stages of their work in extremism. That might be useful to them but in the big scheme of things I don't hold out much hope for the much needed changes based on what I read. In the Casey Review. 

If I'm honest I think that more important things were said during a debate in the House of Lords last Friday on  "National Life: shared values and public policy priorities."  Introducing the debate the Archbishop of Canterbury set out a far more compelling vision of a shared future than I hear from our politicians. Cutting to the chase he said:

"The catalyst for attempting to codify our shared national values—what the Government have called “fundamental British values”—is the threat of violent extremism in our country and, to a lesser extent, questions about immigration and integration, inequality and our role in the world. But values built on feelings of threat and fear can lead us down a dangerous path. Practices and loyalties that are not grounded in values of hospitality, generosity and welcome lead to a turning inward that strangles the hope of the common good."

Hospitality, generosity, welcome. Roted in Jesus' teaching on loving your neighbour and demonstrated in the story of the Good Samaritan.


 "It reinforces a Christian hope of our values: those of a generous and hospitable society rooted in history; committed to the common good and solidarity in the present; creative, entrepreneurial, courageous, sustainable in our internal and external relations; and values that are a resilient steward of the hopes and joys of future generations in our country and around the world — hopes that are not exclusive, but for all. That is what our values have been when they are at their best."

The Casey review gives one view of what might be going wrong. It has a long list of what "immigrants" need to do, what government might do.  They might be helpful.  But I very much doubt that they will sort the fundamental problem. 

I suggest the answer might be with us. All of us. 

Hospitality and welcome start with the one who is at home.  Or the one who has the upper hand. When I go to a new place the welcome I receive gives me an idea of what I can expect in that place. A good welcome makes me feel at home. Hospitality gives me the means to live as if I were a member of the family. It comes with privilege but also responsibility, just as being family does. My host wants to be generous. But I do have responsibilities. Being new means I don't know everything, I get things wrong.  It's then that generosity of spirit plays an especially important  part. 

To be honest listening to many peoples migration stories arrival in the UK was often not great. Welcome was often lacking. And the lack of generosity of spirit often continues.  

(I'm not going to go into whether people were invited to come to the UK. I take it as a given they were. Every government since the war has welcomed immigration, whatever party, and that means they've come with the majority of the nations consent. End of.) 

There's a fair bit of putting things right to do folks. But in my experience generosity of spirit and solidarity expressed now in the face of some of the racism and hatred we find in our world go a long way to putting things right. That's certainly our experience in the Luton story of facing down far right extremism over recent years. 

The Archbishop went on to question what the government calls "fundamental British values" - democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance. He suggested they are outworkings of those deeper values and loyalties.  They are not absolute, as for example when unjust laws are opposed as for example by Dr Martin Luther King, 

The Casey Review emerged as part of a series if measures to challenge extremism, and certainly returns to that theme consistently. Turning to that theme himself, Archbishop Justin said: 

 "Our response to those who seek to threaten and undermine our values cannot simply be grounded in a defensive or preventative mind set. To draw back into ourselves. To look after our own. As part of the counter-radicalisation policy, ‘Prevent’ may be important. But if we spend all of our energy preventing bad ideologies — whether religious or political — I fear that we will neglect the far more transformative response required to build a convincing vision for our national life. 

In short, we need a more beautiful and better common narrative that shapes and inspires us with a common purpose; a vaulting national ambition, not a sense of division and antagonism, both domestically and internationally.

We need a narrative that speaks to the world of bright hope and not mere optimism — let alone simple self-interest. That will enable us to play a powerful, hopeful and confident role in the world, resisting the turn inward that will leave us alone in the darkness, despairing and vulnerable."

Speaking directly to our theme he concluded:

 A vision of this kind will promote cohesion around the common good.

Integration then goes two ways. And instead of being tempted to point the finger, at this government or any other, or "immigrants" or "Muslims", I suggest we all seek to play our part. Our future together as a nation depends on it.