St Paul's Institute

Who is my Neighbour?

by Barbara Ridpath

Posted: 17 Sep 2015

Globalisation has permitted us to better understand places and people far distant from home. It has brought prosperity to many, and the mind-broadening advantages of travels and connections with cultures different from our own, as well as an ability to stay in touch with those we love who are far away, cheaply and instantaneously.

While it has raised the standard of living for many, it has also meant that scenes of destitution and desperation, scenes of war, natural disaster and inequality, touch our hearts with such regularity that we can become inured to them.

And yet these are two sides of the same coin. Facilitated by technology and media, the ever tightening links between principalities, markets and people that created the globalisation that brings such benefits also enacts a terrible human cost.

In the Middle East, boundaries drawn by the West never fit the existing inhabitants, and they had no say in their establishment. We have lived with the cost of this folly for generations. At the same time, technology has made it far easier for people around the world to see and believe that 'the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence.'

Globalisation can be a force for good, and has and can raised living standards in many parts of the world. Many of us benefit from the fruits of this change. However, we cannot presume to take only the benefits of globalisation without assuming any of its costs. Even without the Biblical imperative to love your neighbour as yourself, and to welcome the stranger, we would have a moral obligation to those whose lives have been disrupted by our actions. Together, the Biblical and moral imperatives are unassailable.

The swelling of public sympathies for this summer's increasing tide of refugees has demonstrated that many understand this obligation for reciprocity and welcome, and have responded on a personal and human level. Agencies are overwhelmed with offers of assistance. It is hard to determine how best to help.

What is needed now is clarity on what each of us can do. To that end, many charities, religious and secular, are actively engaged. St Paul's Cathedral has produced a short resource on how best to channel gifts and offers of assistance. A recently created charity that I am involved with called Capital Mass, itself a joint venture between the London Diocese and the Church Urban Fund, is working with the diocese to coordinate and channel a diocesan response with particular themes around: welcome, orientation, integration and hospitality. But one thing each of us can do, without further instruction, is pray:

God, no one is stranger to you.

In your kindness look with mercy on those who today are fleeing from danger.

Watch over migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, those separated from their loved ones, those who are lost and those who have been exiled from their homes.

Bring them safely to the place where they long to be, and help us always to show your kindness to strangers and those in need.


Bless the work of those seeking to bring them relief.

Awaken compassion and urgency in governments and all whose decision making can make a difference and guide the nations of the world towards that day when all will rejoice in your Kingdom of justice and of peace;

We ask this through Christ our Lord, who too was a refugee and migrant who traveled to another land searching for a home.


About this author

Barbara Ridpath is the Director of St Paul's Institute.

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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of St Paul's Institute or St Paul's Cathedral.