I like to ride up front when I take a taxi – if it is permitted. It gives me the opportunity to talk with the driver – if he is able to converse in English, pigeon English, pigeon French, or pigeon Welsh. Today I had a very interesting conversation with the man who drove me from Copenhagen Airport to my hotel. His name is Ali and he has lived in Denmark for fifteen years. He spoke amazingly good English and he shared some of his life story with me.
Ali grew up in Afghanistan. He told me that his country has been at war for thirty-five years as first the Russians came, and then the Americans. He left his country with great sadness for one reason and one reason alone – his children. Quite simply Ali did not want his children to grow up in a country where war is the norm. And so his children have grown up in Denmark. Ali told me that his children were Danes and that made him sad too. He really wanted his children to be Afghans. He really wanted his children to know their wider family, and be part of a culture that he remembers from his childhood.
We talked about the people arriving on Europe’s shores from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other places. Ali does not believe that they are coming because they want money from their European hosts. Ali believes that they come and will continue to come because they do not want their children to grow up with bombs exploding all around them and all the associated cruelties of war. While it is more than certain that many of the young men we see on our television screens are seeking economic benefits I have to ask myself would I want my children to have grown up in any of their countries?
I do not have any answers to the crisis unfolding in Europe as hundreds of thousands of human beings risk life and limb having paid extortionate sums of cash to people smugglers. I wish I did. As a follower of Jesus I am challenged about the way I interpret the scenes on the television. There can be no doubt that a great darkness continues to thrive in our world. Scripture brings me some comfort but that is the problem. I am too comfortable. I miss my beautiful childhood home but my yearnings for a small island in the English Channel pale into insignificance when I consider the yearnings of Ali the Copenhagen taxi driver for his childhood home. I won’t forget Ali or our conversation. I am glad we met. But I continue to despair at the horrors of war and the ability of human beings to be inexplicably cruel. Oh how we need the light to dawn. Come Lord Jesus, come soon. Please.
Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honour Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:1-2 NIV)