Christmas message: Everyone needs a home
I know that statistics can be made to say almost anything and are often hard to check. But recently I heard that every second of the day someone in the world loses their home due to climate change. And given the scale and seriousness of the crisis, I can believe it.
Being able to live in a place called home is so important for human wellbeing, for mental health, for stability and security. The growing number of refugees and asylum seekers around the world and record numbers of migrants trying to cross the Channel this year highlights the international homelessness crisis.
Just this week more than 50 people have died in Mexico when a lorry carrying 160 migrants crashed and overturned. Also this week the Pope has visited a refugee camp in Greece, condemning migrant exploitation.
And all this migration leads too often to temporary and very basic accommodation, which too easily lasts much longer than it should. And sadly, that is happening in our own country. There are a number of people currently seeking to set up an All-Party Parliamentary Group to address the crisis in temporary accommodation in our society.
Around 96,000 households are trapped in temporary housing, for too long and sometimes below a reasonable standard. An ITN reporter, Dan Hewitt, has been unearthing the scandal of overcrowding, squalor and dishonesty in some of the arrangements for temporary accommodation.
This sad reflection on our society is highlighted more sharply in this Christmas season, when time at home with family and friends is all part of the end of year holiday. There’s a kind of expectation that everyone will have a great time, but the challenges of 2021 and the ongoing regulations to prevent the spread of the variant viruses mean for many it is going to be tough.
Money is tighter, food parcels and ‘love your neighbour’ gifts are needed, and everything, including the heating, costs more.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has created a Housing Commission, which made its first report this year and which looks at ways in which as a society we can address some of our serious housing needs. And the church is committed to playing its part. Just this week I heard of a parish in the diocese which in a development scheme is providing ‘affordable homes’. Great news!
And it is here that the Christian faith in our Christmas celebrations has something extraordinary to say. We proclaim that God, the Creator of this wonderful universe, chose to leave home to live here on earth, to be born from the womb of a teenage girl, which was His home for nine months.
Then he entered the world in humble surroundings, to find Himself in those early months fleeing as a refugee to a foreign country. In His own words to have nowhere of His own to call home or lay His head and eventually to be driven out of the world He had made and loves. Here is a God who knows the pain and anguish of the migrant homelessness story. Jesus through His death was taken to the lowest place – separation from His Father – because He took on Himself the consequences of our selfishness and wrongdoing and through His resurrection has opened up a way to triumph over all that spoils His world.
Yes, we do whatever we can to meet human need. Using the words of the Crisis at Christmas advert this year, everyone needs a home. The homelessness and temporary accommodation crisis must be on our agenda.
And may it serve as a reminder that all our accommodation in this life is temporary, a preparation for the transition into the life of the world beyond death.
None of us are here forever and we do well to be ready for our departure, whenever that will be. The gift to us of the Christ child is the way, the truth and the life, to His eternal home, to which we are all invited.
My very best wishes for a Happy Christmas to all whose homes, at this time, are in Lancashire.
Rt Rev Julian Henderson
Bishop of Blackburn