What is it like to be an asylum seeker, forced to leave all that you love? It is to end up a stranger in a strange country, probably understanding very little and so silenced; it is to end up totally dependent on the good will of another country’s laws and regulations, longing for news of home, longing to hear a familiar voice in a familiar language, longing even to meet a friendly face, one who won’t regard you as a “scrounger”, and all the time, every day, even every year, waiting for news: will you be allowed to stay? how long before you know? Or will it be the dreaded refusal…your personal story not believed, your sufferings discounted and minimised, and you are taken by the police perhaps at night time, and brought to a prison to await deportation to your country, where you will probably be killed?
Fortunately this did not happen to the little family from Bethlehem who had to unexpectedly flee their homeland for the safety of Egypt so as to protect their new baby from certain death. Imagine the relief they experienced after such a terrifying and dangerous flight.
Yet they faced an uncertain future and every day longed to return to their loved ones.
They became experts at waiting. Did the local Egyptian people know who they were sheltering? And yet, the Christmas story we are soon to celebrate only came about because of the hospitality of strangers to this young family.