This week, on a small, rural, remote Scottish island named Bute, around 80 refugees from war-torn Syria will make their new home among the grey stone houses, and "Fish & Chip" shops that flank the icy Atlantic ocean in the capitol city of Rothesay. Fleeing the evil dictatorship of Bashar Al Asad in Syria, while at the same time running the gauntlet of guns and bombs being shot and dropped from ISIS militiamen, around 80 refugees, almost 50 children among them, will find a home in several apartment complexes in the downtown area.
Aidan Canavan, owner of the local Bute Brewery, has probably done the more to welcome the new Syrian refugees than any one else in Rothesay. His company has rented out a local cinema and is planning on showing the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" on Dec. 13. The Bute Brewery will also provide free mulled wine and food for the entire group of refugees. Canavan, a former teacher is extremely excited to welcome the refugee. In his own words; "When I was a teacher, I visited Rwanda with some of my pupils. It took me weeks to recover from the experience. Not a single person we met was unaffected by the genocide. What these families, and many others like them, have endured is beyond our comprehension, and it will be an honor to give them respite and shelter. I am so proud that this island has stepped up to the mark to help."
The island of Bute, once a vacation destination of middle class workers in Glasgow, has more recently become a rundown haven of pensioners, and retired people. The "beach side" resorts and hotels, that once were filled with happy folk-singing and pub-chatter, now have mostly empty rooms, and dreary dining halls. With up to 400 potential Syrian refugees eventually coming to Bute, and with an entire island population of 6,300, the percentage of Syrians will be roughly 6%. With this change, the entire ethos of the island culture stands to become more Middle Eastern than "Tartan and Bow and Bagpipe".
Of course, there are others in the city of Rothesay, and the island of Bute that are less excited about the arrival of the refugees. The local newspaper, The Buteman, has recently had several comments from local residents about the need to, "look after our own poor first." However, these kinds of negative sentiments have quickly been derided by louder and more powerful local voices. The paper's editor, Craig Borland recently wrote; "Mostly, these are just not-very-thinly-veiled ways of people saying, 'I don't want them in my back yard'. Well, I do. I want Bute to be a place where people who come here with little more than the clothes they are standing in can feel safe and at home."
What has also been striking, in this season of political terrorism in Paris and other places, is the reticence of many countries to take in these refugees. Germany, France and Great Britain, at one time leading the way in the acceptance of refugees has decided to put such decisions "under review" until later consideration. In the United States, with the lead up to the November 2016 Presidential election, the question of accepting refugees from Syria has become a greatly contested political fight.
My own opinion is that we, in the entire world, and especially the United States, should take up the example of the small island of Bute. We should all take up and take in these fleeing refugees. Why? Because they are our neighbors. Once Jesus was asked, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus then told a story about a man, a foreigner, who was beat up and bleeding and in need of help. Several other people, all of religious background, passed the foreigner by. Surely, above all, the religious people were afraid for their own safety and survival. "What if the foreigner is a terrorist or a criminal," the passersby told themselves. Only one man stopped - a Samaritan - he helped the man, gave him food, and lodging, and even extra money.
This Christmas season, let us allow our higher instincts rule over our baser fears - and in the words of the character George Bailey, who was played by James Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life" (the film that the refugees will see on Dec. 13 in Bute, Scotland), "Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves and awful hole, doesn't he..."
May our own lives leave a hole when we leave this world...
Life is "Bute"iful!
All For Now,