Thirty seven years, or so we are told, is the time it will take to clear the backlog of immigration cases. Thirty seven years if we continue work at the current rate and if no new cases are filed.
This is just the sort of statistic that both shocks me as a reader and numbs me. How can I take on this statistic when so many others about other dreadful issues follow in its wake? What can I possibly do about a 37 year waiting list?
Writing a letter each week to a man I know nothing about, in a detention centre I can hardly imagine, is a seemingly negligible response, and yet through the pen-friend service that JRS operates, I am able to reach out, to touch and be touched in a way that makes a statistic come alive.
No discussion of politics, religion or individual cases is permitted and every letter is scrutinised by staff at the centre so each week I write about life in rural England, MOR TV, festivals and celebrations. I write in faith that my commentary will be accepted by a stranger. Every month or so I am humbled to know, through the medium of an exuberant, greetings card made in the art class at the detention centre, that my gesture has been graciously received.
Because of this one to one contact, I’ve found myself reading, thinking and praying about refugees, those who serve them in the host country, those they leave behind in their home countries. I’ve found myself getting a sense of the scale of the problem, but rather than being overwhelmed as by dry statistics, I discover greater depths of compassion and am moved to immerse myself more fully. Let us hope that by the Grace of God another thirty seven years of letter writing for this particular cause will not be needed.
Patricia, a JRS-UK penbefriender