7th June 2021

There was an electric moment in last week’s Question Time (3.6.2021) when the panel’s discussion of the rights and wrongs of the eviction ban in England coming to an end was interrupted by a question from the audience. A mother who had previously been made homeless together with her daughter wondered aloud how many members of the panel, or of those who had made the decision to end the evictions ban, had ever themselves been in danger of losing the roof over their heads. Faced with this blunt – though courteously posed – question the panel members looked somewhat taken aback, and their previous balanced discussion of the respective rights of tenants and landlords looked irrelevant as they (and I, sitting in my comfortable living room) contemplated the desperate situation evoked by someone who didn’t look like our usual image of a ‘homeless person’.

Beyond the obvious reminder of how fortunate many of us are to live such comfortable lives, this moment also highlighted the need for all of us to hear the stories of others and not merely to feel momentary sympathy, but to work towards a more compassionate world. Jesus’s responses to those in need are described with words that in the original Greek imply a literally visceral response that is only very weakly captured by the translation ‘moved with compassion’; this is no ‘mere sentiment’ but a powerful solidarity with and overwhelming desire to alleviate human suffering. As we begin slowly to emerge from the pandemic, but the suffering it has caused continues, let us pray for Jesus’s kind of compassion, for our political leaders, and for ourselves.

Debbie Pinfold