By Godfrey Bloom MEP
When first I heard Nigel Farage suggest we took Syrian refugees I was surprised. I do not believe that opening our doors to more refugees, no matter how heartbreaking the circumstance, is in the long term interests of either the UK or the Middle East. However he has made a very worthy and significant point notwithstanding that.
The British, and others in the free world, do have a responsibility for the displaced and persecuted in the world and we do not need as a Christian country to be bound by 'inky parchment blots' to meet it. For better or worse - worse in my view - we live in a cradle to grave welfare state which is gradually bankrupting the free world. Money which cannot be raised through taxation or borrowing is simply printed. This is of course ridiculous and unsustainable. However the point of this epistle is not one of economics but an equally elusive concept: morality.
I had a long chat with Nigel on the telephone about the problem and put him in touch with my Middle East advisor Eric Richards, now Father Elwyn of the Greek Orthodox church (Eric eventually despaired of being an Anglican priest, but that is his story, not mine to tell).
Eric, my old regimental padre, served the church in Syria, amongst other exotic places in the Middle East and India, so there is not much he does not know. We all agreed that the complicated Syrian situation posed a real dilemma. Although the various Muslim sects all had recourse to more local and national help the Christians have nowhere to go. As often the case they are bearing the brunt of the persecution yet few world leaders speak up for them.
Not only is this a serious failing by world leaders but more so by the world's Christian leaders. The head of the Anglican church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is cast from the same mould as so many of his predecessors. His very first speech as leader was about politics not spirituality or indeed Christianity. His interest is in the welfare state, not the state of his own church, which, of course, is dire. Look at the empty pews. No, I do not mean at Christmas, Harvest Festival or Easter. I mean the rest of the year. Pathetic. The House of Lords is stuffed with Bishops with the same tired political views. When did you hear them talk about God?
Even the new head of the Catholic church loves to express some rather naive views of political and economic systems which he clearly does not understand. Well, why would he?
We now find ourselves, as Christians, with no serious influential leadership. Instead of well meaning platitudes we would be better served with at least pragmatism if not spirituality.
Christians were left in peace to worship in secular Syria, yet when a civil war started to enforce some form of theocracy the British Foreign Office and CIA could not wait to help whichever potential government might serve the usual narrow interests of geo-political short term advantage. At one stage the British government wanted to bomb Syria (isn't Ukip the loony and fruitcake party?).
So all of this was inevitable. I totally concur with Nigel Farage we have a duty to those suffering in this cruel conflict, especially the Christians whom the West betrays globally at every turn. Yet with world turmoil in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Mali, South Sudan, Somalia et al, we simply cannot open the doors any more than we can visit an animal sanctuary and bring home every heart breaking individual tragedy.
I have led the fight for a more sensible overseas aid policy over several years - £1 billion per month, most of it wasted or at least unaudited. Let us focus some of that money to help these tragic people and perhaps our leaders might learn that their persistent interference overseas seems to always end in tragedy.
Oh, and by the way Christian church leaders: a bit more about religion please and a little less politics.
Godfrey Bloom is an independent member of the European Parliament for Yorkshire and the Humber