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Viewpoint from Victor Hulbert 21/07/2017 

Victor Hulbert 1Victor Hulbert
Communications & Media Director
Seventh-day Adventist Church, Trans-European Division

as published in the Yarmouth Mercury


Today’s businessman is tomorrow’s refugee.  That is a harsh lesson I learnt in Italy this last month.  I had gone there to film part of a series commemorating the 500th anniversary of the reformation – this October expect to hear plenty about Luther, his 95 thesis and a certain door in Wittenberg
dove leftMy film focuses on the Waldenses, and on a particular village, Guardia Piemontese, where they had fled persecution in France, and built a successful business economy as weavers.  It tells the story of their success, of 250 years of religious tolerance in the area, and then a fateful massacre of men, women and children as religious tolerance vanished.  It is a story of courage, faith and betrayal.  They were refugees first from France, and then from their own Italian village, perched high on a hill
Just outside the villages fortress-like wall is a war memorial – to those who lost their lives in the first and second world wars – again a reminder of displaced people and the effects of cruel politics
Which put in context for me another group of people I met a few days later in the socially deprived and crime ridden town of Castel Volturno, just a little bit north of Naples.  These were migrants who had survived the treacherous Mediterranean crossing in overcrowded wooden boats from Libya to Lamadusa.
Dove rightLast year I was in Greece reporting on the plight of Syrians, Kurds and Yazidi trapped in refugee camps with closed borders into the rest of Europe.  I had great sympathy for them
This year, reporting from Castel Volturno, I felt a loss less sympathy. Surely these men and women from sub-Saharan Africa could just have stayed at home, made the best of their situation.  Then I heard their stories
The Christian girl whose father was an animist, and who would be killed if she did not follow in his steps.  She had to flee not just her village, but her country.  The construction worker who left Ghana because his subsistence farm was so small it could not support his family.  He moved to Libya and worked successfully until civil war hit.  Then he was persona non-grata. Stay there and die. Go home and starve – or make the dangerous choice to cross the Mediterranean.  I learnt it was not a choice – is was simply the least bad of atrocious alternatives.  For just one day I worshipped with them and listened to their stories.  I heard how they praised God – despite the harsh realities of their lives
They worship a God who was himself a refugee in Egypt, who in his ministry had ‘nowhere to lay his head’, but who promises, “Come unto me all ye who are weary, and I will give you rest”.   The same God I worship – and the reason why I continue to care

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